On 4 October 2023 the Holy See published, on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis' new Apostolic Exhortation ‘Laudate Deum’ on the climate crisis.
The Holy Father addresses the situation of climate change in Laudate Deum ("Praise God") because "a human being who pretends to take the place of God becomes the worst danger to himself" (LD 73) after the Encyclical Letter Laudato si' promulgated on the Solemnity of Pentecost 2015.

He writes in para 2: "with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons. We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migration, etc."

Para 4, He mentions, the reflection and information that we can gather from these past eight years allow us to clarify and complete what we were able to state some time ago.

The Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, addressed to all people of goodwill, is composed of six Chapters:

In the first, "The Global Climate Crisis," Pope Francis warns that climate change is undeniable, and its effects are becoming increasingly evident "despite some attempts to minimize or ridicule them" (LD 6). He further regrets that the main cause of this problem is human activity and adds that, while we cannot correct such damage, we can still take steps to prevent even more serious damage in the future.

In the second Chapter, the Holy Father addresses the "technocratic paradigm" and stresses that nature is not a resource to be exploited without end and urges us to recognize that unbridled ambition is not ethically sustainable (LD 28).

In the third Chapter, Francis refers to "the weakness of international politics" and stresses the urgent need for global cooperation through new multilateral agreements between States because current and past approaches are insufficient (LD 43).

In the fourth Chapter, the Pope reflects on "climate conferences: progress and failures" and encourages to overcome the selfish positions of countries for the benefit of the global common good (LD 44, 52) and in the fifth Chapter to reflect on "what is expected from COP28 in Dubai?" if we do not want to doom humanity.

In the last chapter, "Spiritual Motivations," the Holy Father calls upon people of all religious confessions to respond. He also reminds Catholics that in the light of faith there is a responsibility to care for God's creation and that this implies respect for the laws of nature and recognition of the beauty and richness of God's creation.

We can see a deep Franciscan spirituality in these sentences, "the very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence”. If “the universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely… there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face”. The world sings of an infinite Love: how can we fail to care for it?’

Finally, Pope Francis invites us to walk in communion, together, synodically, and to commit ourselves to "reconciliation with the world that shelters us" (LD 69).
Pope Francis, has explicitly described the current state of the climate as a "crisis" can be seen as affirming what climate activist Greta Thunberg said in her 2019 address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: "Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire."

In the same address, Thunberg had pleaded to all who would listen: "We are now at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation — and the entire biosphere — must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be. We must change almost everything in our current societies."

“Praise God” is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.

The final lines of the exhortation, in paragraph 73, say it all. After several paragraphs dealing with the role of personal conversion and small improvements in our own lives (the small is reflected in the great; small changes build a culture more receptive to larger changes, even if I am not actually going to fix the problem by composting or driving less), Pope Francis leaves us with this final word of warning. We would do well to heed it.

Article by Sr. Molly Fernandes sfn


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