The Jesuits in Britain have announced that a new research institute called the Laudato Si’ Institute (LSI) is being established at Campion Hall, the Jesuit permanent private hall of the University of Oxford. The LSI will be established during the academic year 2018-2019 and will formally open in September 2019.
The aim of the Laudato Si’ Institute is to foster interdisciplinary research arising out of the intellectual challenges presented most vividly in Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’, while being faithful to Ignatian traditions and reflective practice.
The premise of Laudato Si’ is that the crumbling of the earth’s fabric, largely through human activity, is ultimately devastating for humanity and other creatures, particularly the poorest communities on earth.
In contemporary Western thought, academic disciplines are often treated by specialists in isolation, so that the interrelationships between different social, ecological, technological, political, economic, philosophical and religious issues are obscured. The Laudato Si’ Institute will comprise:
(1) An ambitious research programme using a dialogical method that enlists philosophical, ethical and theological insights as well as scholarly research in the natural and social sciences.
(2) A global network of allied activities inspired by Laudato Si’ in order to foster international collaboration and link scholarship across different global cultures and contexts.
The Laudato Si’ Institute will be informed by and act as a resource for allied educational initiatives of the Jesuits in Britain and elsewhere. It will also engage with scholars in other faith traditions as relevant to its research themes.
Its overall mission is to contribute to the intellectual basis for individual and structural transformation towards an ecological conversion at the levels of individuals, communities, public policy and governance.
Professor Celia Deane-Drummond, currently Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing at the University of Notre Dame, USA, will be the inaugural Director of the Institute.
Fr Damian Howard SJ, Jesuit provincial, welcomed the announcement, saying: “As Jesuits, we are dutybound to seek out new intellectual frontiers and to bring to them the light of the Gospel. I am delighted that Professor Deane-Drummond has agreed to take on the role of Director of the new Laudato Si’ Institute. The intellectual and spiritual exploration of Pope Francis’ teaching in Laudato Si’ is vitally important work for the future of humanity. I look forward with great excitement to seeing how the work of the Institute unfolds.”
“When Pope Francis released his encyclical Laudato Si’ in June of 2015, I knew a fresh, invigorating wind of change was blowing through the Church” said Professor Celia Deane-Drummond. “For the first time in the Church’s history, environmental scientists, conservationists and anthropologists, whether they were believers or not, woke up and listened’.
She further commented: “The challenge for those of us who have been working at the boundary of ecology, philosophy and theology for the last quarter century is to discern how to implement and work out with intellectual rigor the message of Laudato Si’, and use that as a basis for deeper individual and societal ecological conversion….I consider it a great privilege and honour to have been given the opportunity to direct this new initiative.”
Professor Deane-Drummond, currently Director of the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing at the University of Notre Dame, USA, is a theologian who has professional experience in academic science and has two doctorates in plant physiology and systematic theology. She has a well-established track record in publishing in science, theology, environmental ethics and at the intersection between theology and the natural sciences. Professor Deane-Drummond has also served as Chair of the European Forum for the Study of Religion and Environment from 2011-2018. Her most recent books include A Primer in Ecotheology: Theology for a Fragile Earth (2017) and Theology and Ecology Across the Disciplines: On Care for Our Common Home (2018).