Vatican global premiere of 'The Letter', featuring Pope Francis
By Vatican News staff reporter
The global premiere of 'The Letter' film, with the participation of Pope Francis, took place on Tuesday in the Vatican's New Synod Hall, in the midst of leaders in the Church, including Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Michael Czerny, the scientific community, ambassadors and press.
The screening of the documentary 'The Letter: A message for our earth,' which was produced by Oscar-winning 'Off The Fence Productions' and presented by YouTube Originals, took place on October 4th, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a day which also marked the Holy See’s official entry into the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Experts estimate that by 2050 some 1.2 billion people will be displaced globally due to climate change.
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, had hosted and recalled an event earlier in the day with ambassadors and other leaders to discuss how to accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Addressing those present, the Cardinal discussed the significance of these two events coinciding on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
While calling for prayers and an entrusting of the situation to St. Francis, he made an appeal for protecting the environment through concrete action, dialogue, and working together, especially as multilateralism declines.
"October 4th is also the feast day of Saint Francis," Cardinal Parolin said, "Let us entrust to Him all our good intentions for a future – not too far off– that is more in line with his teaching and example."
Praying for environment
Economist and the Secretary of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Sister Alessandra Smerilli, next addressed those gathered, remembering in a special way the Holy Father's prayer about cherishing properly the planet within his groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, Laudato si.'
Tomás Insua, the executive director of Laudato Si’ Movement and a consultant to the Dicastery for Communication, welcomed those gathered, noting the event was to remember two letters, the film, but also of course the Pope's encyclical.
He stressed that it is always more urgent to react to the ecological crisis, which, he suggested, is always provoking further climate catastrophes worldwide.
Nicolas Brown, director of 'The Letter,' has won four Emmys, two BAFTA awards and more than 50 major-festival awards across the world. He told his experience in bringing the film to life.
Arouna Kandé, one of the documentary's protagonists addressed those before him in French, about why it is so important to raise awareness.
At a young age, Arouna was forced to leave his home village in Senegal due to desertification. He moved to a coastal city, where the sea-levels are rising. Rather than give up, Arouna persevered. He is now a university student and he is developing a new NGO to lead the next era of sustainable development in his country.
Arouna suggested he is one of millions that have both firsthand experience of the climate crisis, and possesses knowledge about what it will take to solve it.
"Climate change," he insisted, "represents the greatest challenge facing humanity in recent decades."
He told how schools were wiped out by the water and how many boys had no dry place to sleep, forced to sleep days upon end, standing.
Abuse of Amazon
In the wake of Pope Francis' Synod on the Amazon, the film features Chief Cacique Dada from the territory, who brought attention to the exploitation and devastation of the region, and how indigenous are those protecting some 80 percent of the world's biodiversity.
American marine biologists and spouses, Dr. Greg Asner and Dr. Robin Martin, who are leading efforts to bring attention to the suffering of wildlife, warned that their efforts in coral protection are essentially a race against time, noting that if temperatures rise even slightly, 99 percent of coral reefs will be at significant risk.
Dr. Asner shared his hope for how the film will make an impact, even if his wife warns in the film that even if scientists have tools, that tools are not enough.
Children and future generations will suffer most
The next speaker was Ridhima Pandey, a 14-year-old high school student, who was a member of groundbreaking lawsuits and complaints to hold governments accountable for their climate inaction. She founded an NGO to help young women become climate activists and had paused her school exams in order to be present.
Ridhima lamented how the young and future generations will be the ones to suffer from the abuse of earth and carelessness worldwide.
On the basis of what she has witnessed in India, she said she has 'nightmares.'
In fact, the film demonstrates the individual 'nightmares,' imagined or lived, by each of the protagonists, as they witnessed the effects of climate change on their reality.
It offered chilling accounts of territories, the sizes of entire nations, destroyed, flooded or burned due to climate catastrophes.
Need narratives to inspire action
Margaret Burress, unscripted lead for YouTube originals, offered her thoughts on how projects like this, can tell stories that matter.
Dr. Lorna Gold, another protagonist of 'The Letter' and the president of the Board of Laudato Si’ Movement, emphasized the need for sharing narratives and stories, in order to inspire and motivate action. She said first we need to become heartbroken, seeing what is really going on, in order to rise up and react.
Deborah Castellano Lubov, journalist of Vatican News - Vatican Radio, moderated the event, which offered simultaneous translations for the international guests attending.
The film also demonstrated how the recent wildfires in Australia destroyed an incredibly vast territory.
Following the event, the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro, described 'The Letter' as "an incredibly moving documentary of Pope Francis' call to action on climate change."