No church document of the last decades has been as well received as Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Sí – On Care for our Common Home”. His remarkable synthesis of scientific evidence, social analyses, theological reflection and spiritual vision has inspired countless people, especially those beyond the boundaries of the Catholic church. In response, a number of profound initiatives have been started by Christian groups, civil society organisations, the scientific community and various economic and political actors. While the list is long and the varieties of responses are really encouraging in some regions of the world, its impact is yet to be visibly felt on the continent of Africa.
Groups of Catholics in the USA started the Global Catholic Climate Movement which uses modern techniques of communication to make the ideas of Laudato Si´ better known in the churches. The website offers a great range of materials for children, young people, parishes and various groups; some as printed material, others as pod-casts. Interested persons can also follow webinars where experts explain the different facets of the encyclical in simple language.
The World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1st was first introduced by the Orthodox Churches in 1989. The World Council of Churches picked up the idea and proposed to its members not only a day but a whole Season of Creation lasting from September 1st to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis. Pope Francis invited the Catholic Church to join in and enriched the celebrations with the biblical, theological and spiritual teaching of Laudato Si’. During the Season of Creation, parishes and Christians communities organised liturgical celebrations to create more awareness of the sacredness of creation as well as public actions against the destruction of the environment. Some have also combined the Season of Creation with the celebration of harvest thanksgiving. The website offers rich materials taken from all the great Christian traditions; so do Christian development agencies like Misereor, CAFOD, SIAF, CIDSE or Trócaire. Other earlier ecumenical Initiatives such as the climate-alliance continue with their programmes and actions.
Dioceses, Parishes and religious communities have organised conferences, retreats and information evenings. For example, Congregations and missionary institutes in Austria used their yearly study session to acquaint themselves with the themes of Laudato Si’. The excellent contributions are available as text files or podcasts. The Spiritans through their Duquesne University in Pittsburgh held a formation session for their own members, associates and collaborators expounding the scientific contributions and religious perspectives in protecting our common home.
However, a lot more still needs to be done to fully reap the vast benefits of this quintessential papal document. What is observable in the above-enumerated initiatives and others is that they are all taking place in the countries of Europe and America. The AEFJN wonders what becomes of the Church instruments in Africa that are yet to register any significant initiatives inspired by Laudato Si. We are certain that the substance of Laudato Si also addresses the root causes of the impoverishment in Africa. Thus, for the African Church and her instruments to appear indifferent to the wonderful opportunity created by Laudato Si raises a huge concern. They must realise that until they announce to the world that they exist, nobody will take their existence seriously. We call upon them to rise up to this noble opportunity.
For the Paris agreement, which all nations voted for in November 2015 during the World Climate Summit in Paris, to become international law, at least 55 countries which are responsible for 55% of CO2 emissions have to ratify it. Major polluters like the US, China, India and the EU have now ratified the treaty.
The Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs which were voted on September 29th, 2015 by the UN-Plenary have now to be translated into national policies by all member states. Several countries have now begun to formulate their own goals to implement the SDGs. The Pope played a major role in both events.
Even more than in Churches, Laudato Si´ has found unexpected interest in the scientific community. Several respected magazines published articles on the encyclical by renowned scientists.
Some top investors and insurance companies have begun to withdraw their capital from fossil fuels like coal and oil and to invest their money in renewable energies. The insight that fossil fuels do not have a long-term future seems to be gaining ground.
Scientists, technicians and industry are developing new and more energy-efficient products and finding ways to recycle waste.
Yet, we are still far away from a truly sustainable economy. And this cannot be attained unless we radically change our patterns of production and consumption and reorganise urban living. Some cities like Copenhagen and Frankfurt are pioneers in creating sustainable cities. More and more young people consciously chose to live a simple life-style. They decide to eat little or no meat and use public means of transport or bicycles instead of cars. If they need a car they hire it just for the time they use it. More such radical changes are needed. As Pope Francis succinctly puts it, “Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities “(Laudato Si 165). The time indeed is now; the power needed to bring about a new and sustainable world will emerge from humanity’s collective determination and a synergy of efforts. It is everyone’s responsibility. One year after the Laudato Si made its appearance, its message is still very valid, its circle of positive response is widening but nothing less than a full universal action is needed.