Laudato Si’ (‘Praise be to you’) was written to engage the scientific, political, and religious communities – addressed really to “every living person on this planet”, to summon us all to a renewed commitment to “care for our common home”.
Laudate Deum is a directly worded address on the other hand to an ever wider cohort, as it says in the subtitle: “To all people of good will on the climate crisis.”
In the final chapter of this exhortation Pope Francis points out that caring for the environment and tending to the needs of our common home is not an optional extra for Christians! He says ‘Care for our Earth and all its Life’ is not a niche interest for a few, while everyone else can sit on the sidelines and watch this damaged and broken world reach an irreversible breaking point.
A world lovingly created by God
In Chapter 6 he outlines how the scripture show that the world was lovingly created by God.
“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” ( Gen 1:31). His is “the earth with all that is in it” ( Deut 10:14). For this reason, he tells us that, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” ( Lev 25:23). Hence, “responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world”. (Pope Francis, LD #69)
Instead of a gift we receive on loan, we end up treating the world like our own private property.
The Judaeo-Christian vision of the cosmos defends the unique and central value of the human being amid the marvellous concert of all God’s creatures, but today we see ourselves forced to realise that it is only possible to sustain a “situated anthropocentrism”. To recognise, in other words, that human life is incomprehensible and unsustainable without other creatures. For “as part of the universe… all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect”. [LS,#42]
“God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement”. Let us stop thinking, then, of human beings as autonomous, omnipotent and limitless, and begin to think of ourselves differently, in a humbler but more fruitful way. [LS,#42]
I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful, because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values. At the same time, I cannot deny that it is necessary to be honest and recognise that the most effective solutions will not come from individual efforts alone, but above all from major political decisions on the national and international level. (Pope Francis, LD #69)
Every little bit helps
Every little bit helps, and avoiding an increase of a tenth of a degree in the global temperature would already suffice to alleviate some suffering for many people. Yet what is important is something less quantitative: the need to realise that there are no lasting changes without cultural changes, without a maturing of lifestyles and convictions within societies, and there are no cultural changes without personal changes.
Efforts by households to reduce pollution and waste, and to consume with prudence, are creating a new culture. The mere fact that personal, family and community habits are changing is contributing to greater concern about the unfulfilled responsibilities of the political sectors and indignation at the lack of interest shown by the powerful. Let us realise, then, that even though this does not immediately produce a notable effect from the quantitative standpoint, we are helping to bring about large processes of transformation rising from deep within society. (Pope Francis, LD #71)
“Praise God” is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.
You can access the full text of ‘Laudate Deum: to all people of goodwill on the climate crisis’ 20231004-laudate-deum
Resources, responses and comments:
Laudate Deum Summary by Dr. Kevin Hargaden on the Jesuit Centre for Faith & Justice website: https://www.jcfj.ie/2023/10/04/laudate-deum-summary/
CAFOD have also published a useful resource page: https://cafod.org.uk/pray/laudate-deum-explained
Patsy McGarry in the Irish Times, 4th October 2023: HERE