Pope Francis meets with Arouna Kande of Senegal, whose story is related in the film The Letter. Photo courtesy the Laudato Si’ Movement

Pope Francis' Laudato Si’ call renewed in new film

  • October 21, 2022

Pope Francis is once again reaching out over the heads of world leaders to appeal directly to ordinary people — people of all faiths and none — on behalf of a planet in crisis.

In the run-up to the 2015 COP 21 meetings in Paris that produced the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, the Holy Father made his first appeal in an encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, addressed to “every person living on this planet.” Seven years on, with a critical November COP 27 meeting on climate change to be held in Egypt, followed by a United Nations-sponsored COP-15 meeting in Montreal to hammer out a plan to stop the rapid extinction of species, the Pope is renewing his Laudato Si’ call in a new documentary film available free on YouTube.

The Letter is a production of the Laudato Si’ Movement, the Dicastery for Communications and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in partnership with Off The Fence Productions, and starring Pope Francis. But the Holy Father does not hog screen time. Most of the film is devoted to the stories of five people — Arouna Kande of Senegal representing the voice of the poor, Ridhima Pandey, 14, from India, representing the voice of youth, Cacique (Chief) Odair “Dadá” Borarí from Brazil’s Amazon region, representing the voice of Indigenous peoples, and Greg Asner and Robin Martin, marine biologists from Hawaii to represent the voice of nature.

The Catholic Register hosted a screening for a group of Catholic elders at Presentation Manor in Toronto to gather their insights into the Pope’s message on film.

“I was deeply moved,” said Scarboro Missions Fr. Peter McKenna. “It is a portrayal and betrayal of our hearts… Once you know (how the natural world is threatened), you cannot be the same.”

Sr. Mary Halder of the Sisters of Service felt the immediacy and emotional impact of the 80-minute film makes Pope Francis’ message more accessible than the original 180-page encyclical.

“How many have been impacted by the encyclical? How many have taken it seriously?” she asked. “It’s all headspace. It’s nothing down here, in the gut.”

Loretto Sr. Christine Leyser was struck by the beauty of many of the images of nature in the film.

“It gives you a greater love for the Earth,” she said. “You see how it can be destroyed so easily.”

Sr. Norma Johnson found the afternoon matinée “really overwhelming and almost sacred.” She hopes that people watching The Letter treat it as more than entertainment.

“It’s not just the film. It goes beyond the film,” she said. “We’re living in a challenging time.”

As the Season of Creation (Sept. 1 to the Feast of St. Francis of Assissi Oct. 4) began, Pope Francis laid out high ambitions for COP 27. (COP stands for Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.)

“The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges, such as grave health crises and wars,” Francis told an audience in Rome, Sept. 1. “It is necessary for all of us to act decisively. For we are reaching a breaking point.”

The Vatican as a sovereign state formally joined the Paris Agreement July 8.

The Holy See has put its moral weight behind the Canadian-originated movement for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would commit countries to a ban on all new oil, gas and coal mining. The treaty is modelled after the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which ultimately passed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ratified by 68 nations, including the Vatican.

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny has explicitly endorsed the treaty, saying it “holds great promise to complement and enhance the Paris Agreement.”

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