Since the release in June of Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, people of all faith traditions and people of good will throughout the world have been captivated by the breadth and power of his words.
For the most part, the reception has been positive, and where there has been criticism, it often comes from those who continue to deny the reality of climate change, or those who are not ready or willing to accept the challenge to reduce consumption or move away from our dependency on fossil fuels.
Like his namesake, Francis of Assisi, who heard the voice of God call him to repair his church, Pope Francis looks out upon the world and hears God’s call to repair the damage we have done to God’s creation:
“We need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.” (Laudato Si’ #61)
The Columban commitment to care for creation and care for the poor expresses a similar commitment. In the Society-wide Statement of Climate Change adopted in 2014, Columban missionaries said: “Our response to the crisis of climate change must be prophetic!” The full statement reads:
“Columban missionaries are called to heal, reconcile, build bridges, and create mutual understanding through dialogue which is expressed through our solidarity with marginalized people and the exploited Earth. We are called, as in the words of Pope John Paul II, to an ecological conversion. Our response to the crisis of climate change must be prophetic, that is good news for the poor and the planet.”
One of the more heartening and inspiring responses to Laudato Si’ is the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a global effort which counts on the support of the Columban General Council. The movement is a first-of-its-kind international coalition of Catholic clergy and laity, theologians and scientists, religious and Columbans from many regions of the world, including the Philippines, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.
In a statement “to the Church and to the world,” the Global Catholic Climate Movement says: “Our collaboration echoes the global dimensions of the Catholic Church and a shared sense of responsibility to care for God’s beautiful, life-giving creation…. We are certain that anthropogenic [human-made] climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate.” Rooted in Scripture and the tradition of the Church, the Global Catholic Climate Movement echoes the hope of the Philippine bishops in their call for prayer and action.
“’We are people of hope,’ and like the Philippine bishops, we believe that together and with the grace of God ‘we can change the course of events.’ And so, in light of growing scientific evidence and real-world experiences, we offer our prayers for God’s healing grace as we work in the world to care and advocate for the needy and all creation.”
What can we do here in the United States, as we prepare for the visit of Pope Francis in September?
Here are a few suggestions from the Global Catholic Climate Movement:
- We can call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to defend the common good by affirming those least able to defend themselves—the world’s people living in poverty, our children, born and unborn, future generations, and all forms of life that populate God’s creation.
- We can offer to assist those voices that demand strong international climate agreements, as well as call for and encourage the conversion of hardened hearts.
- We can invite Catholics and all people of good will to explore the issues of climate change and to raise awareness about this important issue and to act within the public sphere.
- And finally, we can entrust all our efforts to Jesus Christ, who makes all things new.
Faith in Action: Invite your members of Congress to read Laudato Si’