Let’s refresh our memory to go back to 2015, when Pope Francis published the encyclical Laudato Si’, inspired by the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Praise be to you, my Lord.”
Pope Francis was in his third year of his pontificate when he decided to publish a document focusing on a problem that was crying out in the world and had never before been addressed by a Pope in such a way: the strong rise of the climate crisis and his concern for an urgent ecological conversion of “all people of good will”.
The words of other Popes, bishops, and saints made Francis aware that the Church needed a text on integral ecology. His aim was to lead Catholics and all the people around the world to take action to reduce human impact on the environment and preserve our common home for present and future generations. In addition, the Pontiff anticipated the Paris Agreement, the first global pact to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which occurred at the United Nations climate summit in December 2015.
But what is the actual anniversary of the encyclical?
The question many are asking is when is the actual anniversary of the publication. Two dates fight for the podium: the day Pope Francis announced and publicly signed the encyclical, and the day Laudato Si’ was released for sale and first reached the hands of a Catholic.
On the day of Pentecost, 24 May, 2015, Francis signed the text of Laudato Si’, and this is what he says on the last page of the encyclical: “Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on May 24, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate.” But it took three weeks before the Vatican formally published the document, on 18 June, 2015.
For this reason, both dates are important. Although, undoubtedly, the pen of the Bishop of Rome carries its weight, since important events such as Laudato Si’ Week revolve around the first date, celebrated by numerous communities around the world. But is it common to celebrate and remember the publication of an encyclical in this way? In reality, what is happening with Laudato Si’ is unprecedented.
If we analyze history, the Vatican has celebrated anniversaries of important encyclical letters published by different Popes. But we are talking about milestone numbers like 25, 50 or even the 100th anniversary.
So why is Laudato Si’ special? Is it because the Pope has become truly aware of the urgency of the climate crisis? We think so. In his message for the upcoming Creation Day, announced last May 25, Francis was blunt: “Consumerist greed, fuelled by selfish hearts, is disrupting the planet’s water cycle […] We must…[resolve] to transform our hearts, our lifestyles, and the public policies ruling our societies.”
Listen to the LSM Podcast: Laudato Si’: When did Pope Francis write the encyclical?