- Apostolic exhortation in the spirit of Laudato Si’ updates the landscape of care for our common home.
- Science has highlighted the deepening of global ecological challenges.
- A different economic, political and socio-environmental landscape in the aftermath of the global pandemic of COVID-19.
- War disrupts peace, triggers refugee influx and undermines international environmental agreements.
- The global climate crisis is evident: record temperatures, Arctic-Antarctic meltdown, extreme droughts, storms, wildfires, loss of life and damage.
- Despite the urgency, vested interests block international decisions.
- The growing urgency demands a response both to preserve the environment and to help the victims of this injustice.
Pope Francis’ recent announcement that he will soon give us an update, in the form of a new apostolic exhortation, on the encyclical Laudato Si: On the care of the common home is cause for renewed hope. With this letter, dated May 2015, already eight years ago, Francis wanted to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (LS 3), “about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” in the certainty that a human and integral development respectful of the environment is possible (LS 14).
At the time, the global context was challenging: the 5th cycle of Reports on Climate Change of the UN Climate Experts (IPCC, 2013-2014), which warned of the climate crisis, was already underway. But the urgency of the scientific knowledge, though clearly established in global scientific consensus, was not yet followed in order to make bold, concrete international policy decisions. However, it was possible that Francis’s letter could have landed in the atmosphere of the 21st Paris Climate Summit (COP21) that year and, at last, a binding agreement was reached that recognized the problem, “what,” of the climate emergency: this is how the Paris Agreement came about in December 2015, listening to science and the pleas of so many affected countries.
From the point of view of faith, the Church’s Social Teaching in Laudato Si’ shows us that the climate – and by extension biodiversity – is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all (cf. LS 23). On the other hand, it has shown that in the global summits on the environment, other narrow interests prevail over the common good (cf. LS 54).
The Church understands the principle of the common good, within the framework of social morality, as those social conditions that make it possible for every human group and its members to achieve their own human fulfillment. The common good respects the human person’s dignity at its center (cf. GS 26). Therefore, the common good concerns the life of all and includes those goods that we all need but which none of us can acquire on our own, but which need the collaboration of all creation: climate, water, biodiversity, as well as harmony and peace are examples. The common good is to society what human dignity is to the individual. We can only become fully human if we are part of a network of human and natural relationships respectful of the common good that allows us to achieve this fullness.
In this way, Laudato Si’ has been a bid by Pope Francis to make clear what are the demands of the common good, strongly linked to the social conditions of each era in response to the respect and integral promotion of the person and his or her fundamental rights (cf. GS 26). For this reason, the encyclical reminds us that “integral ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good” (LS 156); indeed, the principle of the common good is “a call to solidarity” and “a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters” which also includes “future generations” (cf. LS 158, 159).
In this sense, an update of the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ is not surprising but to be expected. Updating is proper to the theological and pastoral work of the Catholic Social Teaching, as the Compendium states: “the passing of time and the changing of social circumstances” require “a constant updating of the reflections on the various issues raised here, in order to interpret the new signs of the times.” (CSTC 9)
Eight years have passed since the first dispatch of Laudato Si’, and the signs of the times, which the human sciences help us to decipher, show us that the challenges facing humanity have deepened dramatically since then.
Today, the economic, political, and socio-environmental context is different: the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a prolonged economic crisis in many countries, with widespread increases in poverty and social isolation; a world war in pieces has brought instability in the peace of people, more refugees, and resentment of fragile international agreements to care for the planet we inhabit for the sake of future generations and today’s poor.
In the face of this, the latest 6to cycle of IPCC Reports on Climate Change (2021-2023) has shown us that the global climate crisis is not stopping and is beginning to make itself felt with all its fury: temperature records in seas and cities, melting of the Arctic sea and Antarctic ice, extreme droughts, severe storms, and forest fires are making the international news, with their respective loss of lives and economic damage.
In addition, the biodiversity of the ocean and large tropical forests, such as the Amazon, Congo, or Borneo, key sinks of carbon dioxide on Earth, continue to be under pressure owing to global warming, overexploitation, and acidification, for the ocean (cf. LS 40-41), and deforestation agriculture, large infrastructure development and extractive industries, for the forests (cf. LS 38). The latter contributes to the deepening climate crisis and directly harms the indigenous communities who inhabit the regions and play a key role in their preservation (cf. LS 146).
Climate science issued the ultimatum: the time window for action is this decade, and it cannot go beyond 2050 to start mitigating the climate crisis, ending the fossil fuel era. But still today, as in 2015, the private and economic interests of a few slow down decisions at international meetings (cf. LS 169).
In other words, the international dialogue and the important decisions on “how,” “who,” and “when” to find, implement, and apply solutions to the climate, environmental, and social crisis are being procrastinated. Today, there is no time to waste, and all indications are that the Paris Agreement needs to be complemented imminently with a roadmap setting out responsibilities, fair and prioritized climate actions, and deadlines, which are getting tighter by the day— since the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor demand it.
Will this apostolic exhortation based on Laudato Si’ continue its open and sincere dialogue with all men and women of goodwill? We think so, and above all, it will be a renewed breath of hope to continue betting on humanity.
As we await the Pope’s exhortation, we in the Laudato Si’ Movement remain committed to a roadmap that will lead to individual and collective ecological conversion through concrete advocacy actions and lifestyle changes by our broad membership and Laudato Si’ animators, chapters, and circles. The Laudato Si’ Action Platform is a compelling example of this journey.
The Laudato Si’ community is, in addition to action, a global network of solidarity and prayer. As with the encyclical, our renewed faith in God the Creator unites us in a renewed vocation to care for creation through climate justice and biodiversity, together with others, in solidarity with all creatures.
Only in this way will we be a movement of renewal of faith within the worldwide ecclesial community. A movement in which there is hope for change towards a better and sustainable world because we know from this faith that things can change.