The Pope and the Planet

The Pope and the Planet

St Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and ecology. The twelfth Century mystic and stigmatist died while listening to a reading of Psalm 142, one of the lines of which reads

“Listen to my groaning, For I am in deep despair.”

Pope Francis who assumed his papal name in honour of St Francis might be said to have applied the lines of the psalm to the cry of Planet Earth. In response, his second papal encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise be to you), released in 2015 implored us to “care for our common home.”

The Pope’s prophetic exhortations have now, six years later, been brought into sharp focus by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, August 2021)) which concludes that a climate crisis of an unprecedented nature has been caused by human activities. Wildfires in Greece, Turkey and California; floods in Germany and China and heatwaves in Canada and Siberia are the manifestations of this phenomenon during the summer of 2021.

The U.N. Secretary General in response to the report’s findings stated that

“If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe,” echoing the Pontiff’s call in Laudato Si for “swift and unified global action.”

The COP (Conference of Parties) 26 summit in Glasgow from 1-12th November, jointly hosted by the U.K. and Italy, the country of which St. Francis is patron, will bring together the representatives of 197 nations to:

“Shape the 21st Century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.” (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretary Patricia Espinosa.)

The term “just” in this list of aspirations is one emphasised in Laudato Si as Pope Francis highlighted the disproportionate effect of climate change on the poor. Teaching on the environment is now an integral part of Catholic social teaching and the Pope will attend the COP26 summit. In preparation for his presence the Vatican is hosting a gathering of scientists and world religious leaders on 4th October to formulate a common approach ahead of the Glasgow conference.

October 4th is also the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi and concludes the Season of Creation which commences on September 1st, 2021 and encourages the Christian community to pray and act together to protect our common home.

The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference has published guidance on how individuals, groups, clergy and parishes may contribute to “Restoring our Common Home,” heavily influenced by the Pope’s Laudato Si encyclical. The bishops suggest actions to encourage everyone to engage in activities, both spiritual and practical that have positive outcomes for our immediate locality in particular and the planet in general. To quote a well aired phrase “Every Little Helps.” In this way we may be able to achieve the main goals of Laudato Si which are to Care for God’s Creation, support life and protect the poorer nations and people on this Earth.

Praise Be to You!

Peter McAlister, Parish of St Teresa of Avila, Glen Road, Belfast