An upcoming presentation of a Vatican-sponsored Pan-Amazonia Network may shed light on how a possible curial office for human ecology would work, if curial reform is shaped as it was presented at the Feb. 12 consistory.

The Ecclesial Network of the Pan-Amazonia was established Sep. 9-12 in Brazil with the aim of fostering a new approach to climate, and will be presented in the Vatican March 2.

The network involves the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Caritas Pan-Amazonia, the Department of Social Justice of the Latin American Bishops Conferences, the Bishops Commission for Amazonia, as well as several other realities committed to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest.

While the network was born with a regional purpose, its aim is in fact global, and so observers from Europe, Asia, and Africa have been called to take part in the network.

A source who works in the Vatican explained to CNA Feb. 27 that "real innovation is that the network wants to involve more developed countries not in order to provide funds – as has been done before – but in order to pursue a real collaboration, and to make the developed countries more aware of the issue of climate change."

It is in the end "a global call for global responsibility," and the network is an example of "how the Church works," the source maintained.

This kind of approach will likely be fostered in a new department for Human Ecology that should be established within the Vatican ranks.

During the Feb. 12-13 consistory, Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, coordinator of the Council of Cardinals, outlined a possible curial reform through the establishment of two super-congregations: Charity, Justice and Peace; and Laity, Family and Life.

At least six pontifical councils would merge in the two super-congregations, and each of them would be composed of five secretariats. One of the secretariats within the Congregation for Charity, Justice and Peace may be that for "Human Ecology."

The director of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, stressed in a media briefing Feb. 13 that human ecology deals with the idea that social and political environments can be deadly for the human person and for human dignity.

The phrase 'human ecology' was coined by Benedict XVI, but the notion has been pivotal in the last 50 years of the Church's social teaching.

Bl. Paul VI, in his 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio, linked heavy consumption to injustice, declaring that "no one may appropriate surplus goods solely for his own private use when others lacks the bare necessities of life… The earth belongs to everyone, not the rich".

St. John Paul II added a spiritual dimension in his encyclical Centesimus Annus, criticizing "a style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards having rather than being", and urged people to "create life-styles in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of the creation."

Benedict took over this approach, and indissolubly linked care for the creation to care for the human being, so much that the theme of his 2010 World Day of Peace was "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation."

According to a source that has advised in the drafting of Pope Francis' encyclical on ecology, this approach has been also taken over the encyclical, and Pope Francis "was very happy with that."

Pope Francis has said he intends to finalize his encyclical on ecology in March.

During an in-flight press conference in January, Pope Francis indicated the encyclical's first draft had been prepared by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The Pope then worked on it, and it was sent to theologians, the Secretariat of State, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The encyclical will likely provide a background to the new department for human ecology, while its actions and goals may be shaped on the model of the Pan-Amazonia Network that will be presented in the Vatican next week.