Yesterday, on the Feast of St. Francis, the Vatican released the new apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis: “Laudate Deum,” or “Praise God” with the subtitle “To all people of good will on the climate crisis.” This environmental exhortation is a follow-up to his groundbreaking 2015 Laudato Si'. He explains the new title in section 73 by saying “'Praise God' is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.”
This papal message to the faithful is somewhat of an addendum to Laudato Si', taking what he expressed there and adding a healthy dose of urgency and gravitas. Francis writes that “our responses have not been adequate” since his last environmental encyclical in 2015, and his tone reflects the deep concern that the increasing climate impact of the last 8 years has evoked in him, and in many of us. Francis brings in statistics and scientific data to underscore the severity of the situation. Some have called this letter a response to Greta Thunberg's famous 2019 speech at the UN Climate Action Summit.
He also takes on the climate skeptics and deniers and doesn't pull any punches, devoting a significant portion to defusing their arguments. He talked again about the dramatic inequality of climate impact on the poorer of our planet. The wealthier countries of the world are taken to task for their disproportionate emissions, and the U.S., in particular. Though he does not directly quote Boff, “Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor” ideas and language are woven throughout.
Some think Pope Francis went too far in this exhortation, and others not far enough. Some are lauding him for the interweaving of science, while others deride. Thus far there have been criticisms that there is not enough Christ in the letter or that the interconnectedness of all is not adequately emphasized. There will always be more to say. But the fact that this Pope has chosen to stand up and bluntly state what many world leaders have not had the courage to, is the important takeaway for me.
Here are some resources related to the release of Laudate Deum:
- Vatican site: Full text of Laudate Deum
- New York Times: “Francis Issues Urgent Call to Save a Planet Near ‘the Breaking Point’”
- National Catholic Reporter: “In 'Laudate Deum,' Pope Francis presents a compelling climate crisis apologia”
- America Magazine: “‘Laudate Deum’: Pope Francis takes aim at U.S. emissions levels in new climate change document”
- The Pillar: “‘Laudate Deum’: A brief guide for busy readers”
- Where Peter Is: “'Our Own Worst Enemy': Ten Takeaways from Laudate Deum”
- Jesuit Center for Faith and Justice: Laudate Deum Summary