Exploring ‘Laudate Deum’
Pope Francis published Laudate Deum » on 4 October 2023, as a continuation of Laudato Sí his 2015 encyclical on the care of the earth. Below is a compact summary of the Pope’s latest concerns about the state of the planet and what we can do, even at this late stage, to halt the destruction of our common home. It is written by Sunny Jacob SJ the Assistant Secretary of the Jesuit Global Network of Schools, Rome. He believes that Jesuit educators, parents, students, and boards, should read, reflect, discern, and act upon the concerns raised in the new document.
Pope ‘Not Mincing His Words‘
Laudate Deum is a comprehensive, practical study of the current ecological crisis and it proposes ways and means to find urgent solutions to it. Regarding those who try to deny climate change, the Pope does not mince words, saying that “The human origin of global warming is now beyond doubt”. And he describes how Christian faith encourages us to do our bit for the care of our common home.
‘Praise God’ (Laudate Deum) is made up of six chapters – 73 paragraphs in all. Each chapter is an in-depth study of the causes of the current ecological crisis and how we must respond to it.
The themes covered in these chapters include the global climate crisis, the weakness of international political climate conferences, the progress and mistakes that have been made, and what should be expected from the upcoming global summit COP 28 in Dubai. The final chapter deals with spiritual motivation in the work for climate justice.
In a call for co-responsibility, the Pope invites us to look at the warning signs in the face of the
climate emergency. He exhorts world leaders, environmentalists, educators, citizens, and all
people to come up with a better response in the forthcoming COP28, which will be held in Dubai
between the end of November and the beginning of December.
Raising the alarm bell, the Pope tells us that, “With the passage of time, I have realized that our
responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing, and maybe
nearing the breaking point. In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate
change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons” The document reminds
us that, “the effects of climate change are borne by the most vulnerable people, whether at home or
around the world”
The Holy Father explains that if global temperature increases by more than two degrees, “the
icecaps of Greenland and a large part of Antarctica will melt completely, with immensely grave
consequences for everyone.” There is an unusual acceleration of warming, at such a speed that “it
will take only one generation – not centuries or millennia – to verify it.” So, it is a reality that we can
tangibly experience in our own lifetime. “Probably in a few years, many populations will have to
move their homes because of these facts”
It is significant to note that there is a widespread misconception that global warming is the fault of
the poor. This is a most unrealistic, oversimplified notion spread by the developed nations. The
document says, “As usual, everything is the fault of the poor. Yet the reality is that a low, richer
percentage of the planet contaminates more than the poorest 50% of the total world population
and that per capita emissions of the richer countries are much greater than those of the poorer
ones… How can we forget that Africa, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, is
responsible for a minimal portion of historic emissions?”
Therefore, “a broader perspective is urgently needed.” Pope Francis says we are being asked to accept responsibility “for the legacy we will leave behind once we pass from this world.” Recalling the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, Pope Francis repeats that “Everything is connected, and no one is saved alone”
In the second chapter, the Pope speaks of the technocratic paradigm which consists in thinking that
“reality, goodness, and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power,” that “monstrously feeds upon itself.” Unfortunately, this is not the case because “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values, and conscience.”
Pope Francis continues in this chapter to note that although as human beings “We have made impressive and welcome technological advances…we have not realized that at the same time we have turned
into highly dangerous beings, capable of threatening the lives of many beings and our own
He says “The mentality of maximum gain at minimal cost, disguised in terms of reasonableness, progress, and illusory promises make impossible any sincere concern for our common home and any real preoccupation about assisting the poor and the needy discarded by our society.” He continues, “Astounded and excited by the promises of any number of false prophets, the poor themselves at times fall prey to the illusion of a world that is not being built for them.”
In chapter three the document deals with the weaknesses of international politics with the Pope
insisting on the need to foster “multilateral agreements between states.” He explains that “when we talk about the possibility of some form of world authority regulated by law, we need not necessarily think of a personal authority” but of “more effective world organizations, equipped with the power to provide for the global common good, the elimination of hunger and poverty and the sure defence of fundamental human rights”.
According to Pope Francis, “Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.“ All this presupposes the development of a new procedure for decision-making. We need “spaces for conversation, consultation, arbitration, conflict resolution and supervision, and, in the end, a sort of increased ‘democratization of the global context so that the various situations can be expressed and included. It is no longer helpful for us to support institutions in order to preserve the rights of the more powerful without caring for those of all”.
Francis, turns his attention to the various climate conferences held to date, in chapter four. He concludes that international negotiations are not making significant progress, “due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good”.
The forthcoming Dubai COP 28 gathering is the subject of chapter five. Looking ahead to it, Pope Francis notes that “to say that there is nothing to hope for would be suicidal, for it would mean exposing all humanity, especially the poorest, to the worst impacts of climate change.” But we cannot search merely for a technological solution to our problems or “we risk remaining trapped in the mindset of pasting and papering over cracks, while beneath the surface there is a continuing deterioration to which we continue to contribute.”
The document asks us to put an end to,“the irresponsible derision that would present this issue as something purely ecological, green, romantic, frequently subject to ridicule by economic interests,”, and urges us to admit “that it is a human and social problem on any number of levels. For this reason, it calls for involvement on the part of all.”
The Pope begins by addressing all Catholics directly in the final remarks of chapter six.”I cannot fail in this regard to remind the Catholic faithful of the motivations born of their faith,” before broadening his outreach, “I encourage my brothers and sisters of other religions to do the same, since we know that authentic faith not only gives strength to the human heart but also transforms life, transfigures our goals and sheds light on our relationship to others and with creation as a whole.”
Pope Francis is keenly aware that the motivations for ecological conversion and commitment can flow from faith. He encourages us all to be part of that commitment. “The Judaeo-Christian vision of the cosmos defends the unique and central value of the human being amid the marvellous concert of all God’s creatures,” but “as part of the universe, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”
What is important, Pope Francis writes, is to remember that “there are no lasting changes without cultural changes, without a maturing of lifestyles and convictions within societies, and there are no cultural changes without personal changes.” Efforts by households to reduce pollution and waste, and to consume with prudence, are creating a new culture. The mere fact that personal, family and community habits are changing is “helping to bring about large processes of transformation rising from deep within society.”
The document ends with a reminder that “emissions per individual in the United States are about
two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the
average of the poorest countries.” So the argument that the poorest countries are causing more emissions is wrong and on the contrary, the truth is that it is the wealthier nations who are doing so.
Pope Francis affirms again that “a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact. As a result, along with indispensable political decisions, we would be making progress along the way to genuine care for one another.”
According to the first Identifier of Jesuit schools, “Jesuit Schools are committed to being Catholic and to offer in-depth faith formation in dialogue with other religions and worldviews.” And we are invited to commit ourselves “to the care of all creation” in the fourth identifier » of what makes a school Jesuit. Therefore, it is apt for Jesuit educators and their stakeholders to read, reflect, discern, and act upon the concerns raised in the new document. The document is a great resource for Jesuits, Jesuit Educators and all their stakeholders. It enables them to enrich the Jesuit school Identifier number 4, and the fourth Universal Apostolic Preference of Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ » collaboration in the caring for our common home.
Laudate Deum is undoubtedly a profound document for all humanity to reflect and act upon for the preservation of our common home for future generations. Indeed it is feasible to say that Laudato Sí and Laudate Deum together make the best-researched document ever written on integral ecology. They are documents for all of humanity to take note of. (Click here to watch Sunny Jacob SJ’s talk about Laudate Deum on YouTube »).
Sunny Jacob SJ
Assistant Secretary of Jesuit Global Network of Schools