Vatican speaker: How Catholics can join pope’s climate ‘revolution’

September 27, 2018
By Christina Gray
Catholic San Francisco

  Pope Francis is urging Catholics to join hands with others outside the church to combat climate change, said one of two Vatican priests representing the Holy Father at the Global Climate Action Summit held Sept. 10-14 in San Francisco.

  “The fabulous message of ‘Laudato si’’ is how we can all contribute to the solution,” said Father Augusto Zampini, an Argentinian theologian and official on the Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, referring to the pope’s 2015 encyclical on ecology. He spoke at a thinly attended Catholic-focused event at the University of San Francisco Sept. 14 at the conclusion of the summit.

  “We need to start making connections and forming partnerships with people of other churches and faiths and people of no faith in order to take action,” Father Zampini said.

   On the third anniversary of “Laudato si’” this summer, he said, the Vatican decided to link its action plans with those that are already happening in the world.

  “To the Catholic mindset, this is a revolution,” Father Zampini said. “We didn’t organize to publish something of our own.”

  He also announced that the Vatican has put its “full support” behind COP24, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP 24 takes place Dec. 3-14 in Katowice, Poland.

  The Global Climate Action Summit was organized by California Gov. Jerry Brown as a response to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in 2017. Government leaders, business leaders, scientists, and faith leaders gathered to discuss progress and accelerate new commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

  Father Zampini reminded his audience about the prophetic nature of “Laudato si.”’

  “I would like to emphasize that ‘Laudato si’’ is not a document,” he said. “‘Laudato si’’ is a prayer, Praise be to God.”

  The encyclical is “a proposal to rediscover the way we live together in our common home,” not just something to read.

  Father Zampini said lifestyle changes such as simply eating less meat, recycling or reducing atmospheric carbon emissions are “not really what ‘Laudato si’’ is about.”

  He said the encyclical is about a spiritual conversion that changes our heart in a way that motivates us to reconsider “how we produce, how we trade, how and what we buy, what we consume and what we waste.”

  Father Zampini said the Vatican is a “tiny part of the church.”

  “We need the full support of all of you, of all your congregations and of all your institutions, schools, parishes,” he said.

  Following Father Zampini’s remarks, participants broke off into workshops on topics such as Greening Your Institution, Raising the Catholic Voice, Fossil Fuel Divestment and Liturgy and “Laudato si’.”

  Father Dermot Lane, a theologian from the Archdiocese of Dublin, spoke on “eco spirituality” at a session attended by just two people, a Franciscan sister from Marquette University in Wisconsin and a Franciscan brother from Rome.

  “The title of the encyclical, the opening verse of the encyclical, the final line of the encyclical and the existence of two prayers at the end indicates to me that part of the intention of Pope Francis is that this would influence the way we pray, the way we celebrate liturgy and the way we celebrate the Eucharist,” Father Lane said. “But that’s not happening.”

  In 2015 Pope Francis initiated the World Day of Prayer for Creation to open the Sept. 1-Oct. 4 ecumenical Christian “Season of Creation,” Father Lane said.

  “But how many parishes have adopted the ‘Season of Creation?’” he asked. “I am here on sabbatical and have gone around to several parishes on Sunday without hearing any reference to it.”

  Capuchin Brother Benedict Ayodi said that although it “is not a requirement that any parish must observe the season,” he and others hope it becomes part of the liturgical calendar.

  Father Lane said that incorporating prayers for creation into the Catholic liturgy is perhaps the best way to effect the “ecological conversion” Pope Francis talks about in “Laudato si’”.

  He cited the Latin credo, “Lex orandi, lex credenda,” which loosely translated means how we worship reflects what we believe and how we will live.

  “I think this should be our ambition,” Father Lane said.