By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis on Thursday met with members of the Laudato Si’ Movement in the Vatican. The group (formerly known as the Global Catholic Climate Movement) takes its cue from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si’ and works to inspire and mobilize communal action to promote care for our common home in order to achieve climate and ecological justice.
Following the meeting, the President of the Laudato Si’ Movement Board of Directors, Dr. Lorna Gold, spoke with Jean-Charles Putzolu of Vatican News. Dr Gold reflected on the encounter with the Holy Father and the important mission of the movement.
Bringing about integral ecology
Dr. Gold shared that the Holy Father charged the movement with continuing to help the Church to bring about integral ecology across the world, during this first meeting since the Pope confirmed the change of name at Pentecost this year.
“We changed the name,” she explained, because “Laudato si’ is more universal and easier for people to understand.” She added, "We want to make to make Laudato si’ - this wonderful encyclical of the Pope on the environment – a lived reality in our communities and in the world.”
Reflecting on the Pope’s call to the movement to bring about integral ecology, Dr. Gold interprets it as a call to “go out to the peripheries and engage the voices of those who are voiceless.”
She notes that the meeting on Thursday was significant because it provided an opportunity for those “who do not normally have a voice in discussions about the environment” to be heard. Among those present at the meeting with the Pope were a chief from the Amazon in Brazil, scientists from Hawaii, a teenager from India, and a youth from Senegal.
Laudato si’ and evangelization
“Laudato si’ is a great way to go out to the whole world, and it’s all gospel,” Dr. Gold said. “When you engage people with Laudato si’, when you invite people to really build a much stronger communion with nature and with their brothers and sisters, its evangelization with another name.”
Concretely, Dr. Gold sees this play out among people who engage with the movement through formation courses on the encyclical. Many of them, she explained, “start to see the world differently” and start to “appreciate that God is present in what He has created,” – in our brothers and sisters and also in nature.
Responding to the climate emergency
In the wake of a dismal, recently-released UN report on global warming and climate change amid reports of wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters in recent weeks, Dr. Gold emphasizes that the message of Laudato si’ is “an invitation to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
“I think once we open our hearts to hear that cry, we can’t remain silent, and we can’t remain inactive, because we can see that there is so much destruction around us,” she urged.
Dr. Gold suggests action on different levels: personal – at the level of our daily lives to reduce our own emissions – and communal, because “the ecological conversion we need is also community conversion.”
“Imagine if every parish was to come together to reduce the climate emissions. Imagine if the diocese were to make a plan to put Laudato si’ into practice in all the activities that they do,” she said.
In addition to personal and communal efforts, Dr. Gold further invites the faithful to “raise our voices as a Church community” especially in view of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) which will be held from November 1 to 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
She invites everyone to sign the “Healthy Planet, Health People Petition” launched in May by the Laudato si’ Movement, which will be presented to world leaders attending the conference, to make sure they know “that the people are demanding urgent climate action.”
That’s not all: she also encourages people to turn up in Glasgow or anywhere else – while obeying Covid-19 regulations – to make their voices heard and to express their dissatisfaction with the current state of events.
“Laudato si’ gives us great encouragement,” Dr. Gold added. “Protection of our common home is essential to our faith as Catholics and as Christians.”
Looking ahead with hope
As the Laudato Si’ Movement continues in its efforts to promote integral ecology and ecological conversion in the face of the dire and urgent climate crisis, Dr. Lorna believes that we can still have hope.
She holds on to hope as “something active” that should push us to take action, because “once you step forward, you begin to hope again” and to discover the “millions of people who want a different world and are taking action.”
“Hope is an active verb,” she says. “Hope is something that we do, something that we build.”