On the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, 4 October 2023, Pope Francis published Laudate Deum, an Apostolic Exhortation building on his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’. Catherine Gibbs reflects on the Pope’s letter and draws links to the New Zealand bishops’ recently published Te Kahu o te Ora – A Consistent Ethic of Life
‘…with the passage of time, I have realised that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.’ – Pope Francis (LD 2)
Eight years after publishing Laudato si’ Pope Francis has sent a sharp and urgent message about the climate crisis. In Laudato Deum – Praise God, he provides evidence our planet is in a state of emergency and how our poor attempts to solve the climate crisis are not working.
‘Pope Francis’ conclusion we are making no progress is taking us close to unmanageable risks has scientific support…We have the warmest temperature on earth this year over the past 100,000 years. Our latest science has mapped 16 tipping points for this year already…’ – Johan Rockstrom, Potsdam Institute.
Mistakes have been made in amplifying the solution as individual small sacrifices. The transition away from fossil fuels is happening too slowly. We must act now. We have failed to understand the core message in Laudato si’ how everything is connected. The 1.5° warming threshold illustrates this. It is not a target. It is a high-risk number and at this degree of warming, we face an existential crisis where environmental collapse impacts health, security, migration, food, water and more.
In Aotearoa New Zealand a new publication from the Catholic Bishops links closely to this understanding of interconnectedness. Te Kahu o te Ora – A Consistent Ethic of Life is grounded in all life as sacred and frames the reign of God ‘in terms of right and just relationships with other persons and the ecological wellbeing of creation’ (p 5). It applies a consistent ethic of life across multiple challenges including the integrity of creation; beginning and end of life issues; poverty; war and peace.
An urgent cry remains for a united humanity that will serve our suffering creation and heal the wounds of our world. We need to connect our head, heart and hands.
Recognise with our heads the overwhelming scientific evidence of our planet in distress, with oil, gas, and coal [emissions] the root causes of the climate crisis.
Ask with our hearts are we being good ancestors? Do we centre ourselves in core teachings of care for creation, human dignity and the common good?
Take courage with our hands and actively work for personal and societal transformation, stepping out and supporting young [climate] activists.
‘A consistent ethic of life mirrors this rich notion of dignity in its central idea that everything is connected’ (p 4 Te Kahu o te Ora).
All creation is in tune but we’re out of tune. St Francis of Assisi intuited this relationship with creation recognising all creatures, human and otherwise, as siblings. This is the time to choose life in all its astounding forms.