Laudato Si’ Movement: We need to be champions of creation
By Lydia O’Kane
The annual Laudato Si’ Week is well underway with hundreds and thousands of Catholics being inspired to do even more to protect our common home.
Each day will feature global, regional, and local events tied to one of the seven Laudato si’ goals and the seven sectors of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, all of which underpin the concept of integral ecology.
In an interview with Vatican News, the Executive Director of the Laudato Si’ Movement, Tomás Insua speaks about the work that has been done since Pope Francis’ encyclical was released in 2015. He also says that in order to make our planet a better place for future generations, we need follow a path of ecological conversion that requires an ecological spirituality.
Q: Since Laudato si’ was published seven years ago, what strides have been made about the need to care for creation?
In these seven years a lot has happened at the Laudato Si' Movement, we’re truly delighted to see all the action emerging from this prophetic encyclical that Pope Francis gifted us. There are so many stories to be shared.
For starters, I think it has just changed the conversation in the Catholic community and way beyond the Catholic community and reframed the conversation about the ecological crisis as a social crisis, as a moral crisis, as a spiritual crisis, so the first and the most important impact, I’d say, is just reframing the conversation, an issue that, care for our common home usually used to be disregarded as irrelevant for Christians, for many, including myself, I would say, until not that long ago, now has pretty definitively been enshrined as a key Christian priority.
As the Pope wrote in Laudato si', care for creation is not an “optional” thing for Christians, it’s an imperative, it’s essential for a life of virtue; so, that’s a more significant one.
Then in terms of, let’s say, other tangible fruits of this encyclical, I would say the fact that we’re having these two annual celebrations, Laudato Si' Week in May and then the season of creation in September, in which the global Church comes together to celebrate creation is a direct fruit of the encyclical.
Then speaking of ourselves as our name indicates, we’re a direct fruit of Laudato si', so of course, I should mention the impact the encyclical had on our personal lives and our community lives; so many of us, thanks to the encyclical, and through the movement have found a way of living our vocation as caretakers of creation.
Last but not least, of course, there is the Laudato Si' Action Platform that the Dicastery for Integral Human Development convenes and which we, of course, actively support together with many others that is meant to help the Church with very practical tools to create and implement their own Laudato si' plans.
Q: Do you think Christians are being seen as leaders with regard to the response to this climate emergency?
I would say no. We Christians have been pretty late, and especially Catholics; we have to be very honest and say that we have been late to the game. We know that the Church has been speaking about this for decades. Other Popes have been teaching about this; Laudato si' was just a, let’s say, a fantastic compilation of earlier Church teachings.
But one could argue that the intense and widespread action across the Church, both the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches have been extremely vital and noticeable in the last couple of years. We have to be very humble and acknowledge that decades and decades ago, others, especially non-Christians, just secular environmentalists have been advocating, and actually, Laudato si' celebrates the larger environmental movements that have been championing this issue for decades.
There are of course exceptions, the Orthodox Church is a clear exception that again Laudato si' acknowledges in the opening. Starting in the eighties, the Orthodox Church has been extremely active, and there are, of course, other Churches with different variations that have also been early champions.
But the majority, I don’t think we’re quite there yet to be able to say that Christian Churches are leaders. We are very, and especially in the last few years, very important actors in the global debate. But to be true leaders, there is much more action that we need to take within our walls.
Q: Last week saw the publication of the ‘State of the Global Climate 2021’ report, which said the past seven years have been the hottest on record. This document will be used as an official document for the COP27 climate conference, taking place in Egypt in November. With that in mind, where do we go from here?
Actually, it’s real interesting that you bring it up and that the last seven years have been the hottest ones. So, that’s the paradox, right, that since Laudato si' was published in 2015 this last seven years have seen this amazing, let’s say, groundswell of action emerging across the Church, but in these same seven years, the urgency just escalated dramatically. Humanity as a whole in the last seven years has continued to press on the accelerator towards the precipice.
So where do we go from here? We just need to double down on the outreach to our fellow brothers and sisters in our Catholic Church and elsewhere to try and awaken the Church and humanity to the urgency.
We know what we have to do. What we have to do is two things I would say, if you ask me; on the one hand, we need to slow down and this is where the spiritual contribution from Laudato si' is so enormous. We need to slow down to change the way we relate to creation; the ecological crisis being first and foremost a spiritual crisis. That’s why St John Paul II speaks about an ecological conversion; we need to change the way we relate to creation, to see it as God’s gift, and not only as God’s gift, but as St Francis of Assisi would say, as our brothers and sisters; all children of the same Creator. We need to engage in this path of an ecological conversion that requires an ecological spirituality; simple things like praying outdoors and seeing all creation as a cathedral; the cathedral of creation.
The paradox is that while slowing down; we need to slow down to recover the spiritual worldview of creation, we at the same time need to speed up the action.
Q: What are you hoping Laudato Si' Week will achieve?
I hope it will, on one side, show all the action that is taking place because we are unaware of all the action that is taking place. In the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, the Cathedral of Jorge Bergoglio, there was a lovely Laudato si' Mass and a lot of action there at the Archdiocese level. In Canberra, the Australian capital, there was a lovely Mass of the local Archbishop with indigenous leaders, again marking Laudato Si' Week. There are countless stories flowing that just illustrate how we’re taking action altogether.
Most importantly, I hope this week inspires many many more hearts to join in this cause in caring for our common home. I hope that through these various initiatives and events and actions many more people can learn about Laudato si' and follow the Pope’s call to urgently respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.