Pope Francis invited Catholics – and anyone else interested – to join a seven-year journey to broaden the reach of his 2015 encyclical on the environment in a time of global climate change.
Known as the Laudato Si ‘Platform for Action, the effort was officially launched on November 14 in dioceses around the world.
The invitation came as communities around the world experienced extreme heat and drought, massive flooding, intense and long-lasting forest fires, sea level rise and failed crops in 2021.
The Pope introduced the platform in a video on May 25, encouraging people to join the global grassroots movement to create a more inclusive, brotherly, peaceful and sustainable world.
Coordinated by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, the platform is a “journey that will see our communities engage in different ways to become totally sustainable, in the spirit of integral ecology,” said the Pope.
He called for a “new ecological approach that can transform the way we inhabit the world, our lifestyles, our relationship to the earth’s resources and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and living life” .
The initiative called on dioceses, parishes and individuals to build an integrated global effort to protect creation for future generations. The Vatican platform is intended to help those who wish to increase their commitment to bring to life the encyclical “Laudato Si”, on the protection of our common home ”, by committing until 2028 to carry out a set of actions that they have developed on the basis of the Needs.
In the United States, 17 dioceses and 58 parishes had committed to participate in the platform from its launch. More are expected to join, said Jose Aguto, executive director of Washington-based Catholic Climate Covenant.
The platform calls for integrating actions in different sectors, such as universities, parishes, dioceses, religious orders, community organizations, neighborhoods, businesses and health establishments.
“The alliance, we are really excited about the US participation in the Laudato Si ‘platform of action so far. We look forward to the seven-year journey as a big step, ”Aguto said on December 1.
The effort surrounding the platform began at the close of the two-week 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Representatives from more than 200 nations gathered from October 31 to November 31. 12 with the goal of agreeing to halve global carbon emissions by 2030 as part of efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
COP26, as the conference was known, was delayed for a year due to the pandemic.
A delegation from the Vatican and several Catholic organizations and parishes were present throughout COP26. Vatican officials participated in the high-level talks, while Catholics from other groups participated in side events.
In a video message, Vatican officials urged the conference to provide funding from the richest countries to help the poorest countries respond to climate change and take urgent action to comply with the standards of the Accord of Paris.
The final deal, however, fell short of these goals, disappointing Catholic environmental and development advocates. Measures to limit temperature rises have been postponed to 2022 and richer countries have failed to provide the climate finance needed to help poor countries respond to and adapt to climate change.
Although promises and practical actions did not result in the final agreement, “we are on a no-return path,” said Christine Allen, director of CAFOD, the Catholic agency for international development in England and the country. of Wales, who joined the Vatican delegation. in Scotland.
“The level of awareness around the world that we need to act and act urgently has absolutely taken place,” Allen said.
Chloe Noel, coordinator of the Faith Economy Ecology Project at the Washington-based Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, which joined the parallel activities of the online conference, told CNS on December 2 that while delegates from major fuel-using countries fossils began to discuss reducing these consumption, “there is no clear plan on how this will be done and when it will be done.”
“We need more ambition to keep the temperature rise to even two degrees Celsius, not to mention what the temperature really needs to be, which is 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Noel said.
She also called for a broader financial commitment from the richest nations of the world to help developing countries that are already feeling the negative effects of climate change.
“We will continue as a climate movement, as a faith community, to push the US government to address the loss and damage at COP27,” Noel said.
COP27 will meet in Egypt in November 2022.
In other events, the Catholic Climate Covenant partnered with Creighton University in July to convene the second of three planned biennial conferences “Laudato Si ‘and the American Catholic Church”. Over 2,700 participants have joined a series of online programs to learn how to bring the Encyclical’s climate change education more broadly into church life.
“We continue to grow the Catholic community (that is to say) concerned about the climate. “We are seeing a steady increase in the number of interested Catholics,” Aguto told Catholic New Service.
“But we need to raise our voices more. Science is becoming more and more important and the divisions in our country are more and more blatant. We must first speak of love for God and love for neighbor. We must create a space for dialogue, ”he added.
A global campaign to divest from fossil fuels continued to gain adherents in the fall, with 72 institutions – including 36 Catholics – announcing days before COP26 that they would withdraw investments from carbon-based energy companies. Institutions hold assets of $ 4.2 billion.
Salesian Father Joshtrom Kureethadam, Ecology and Creation Coordinator at the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, welcomed the announcement during a video conference on October 26 hosted by the main supporters of divestment.
The Vatican and Pope Francis are increasingly vocal about shifting investment funds from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives. In 2020, as part of the Laudato Si ‘Year, the Vatican issued guidelines for Catholics to implement Integral Ecology and other actions outlined in the Pope’s Encyclical.
“In very strong language, divestment was recommended,” Father Kureethadam said at the online conference. “Last year we announced the Laudato Si ‘action platform. Among the objectives of Laudato Si ‘, there is the ecological economy and he mentioned the need to divest. The Vatican therefore supports this trip.
The priest called the task of reducing the use of highly polluting fossil fuels a
“Huge challenge” but that was possible. A large majority of climate scientists have concluded that the burning of fossil fuels is one of the main causes of climate change.
Changes were underway during the year in two major Catholic environmental groups.
The Catholic Climate Covenant announced in September that Aguto would be its new executive director, succeeding Dan Misleh, who became the founder. Misleh helped establish the organization in 2006 and continues to play a leading role in its work in the United States.
In addition, the Global Catholic Climate Movement became the Laudato Si ‘Movement in July.
Leaders of the movement said the change better reflects the work of the six-year global network and its connection to prayer action on environmental protection and climate change.
The new name is easily translated into other languages, as it incorporates the Franciscan phrase Laudato Si ‘, which means “praise yourself in Italian,” said at the time Lorna Gold of Ireland, who chairs the board of directors of the organization.