Wind turbines are seen on a mountain near the town of Karystos, on the island of Evia, Greece, April 16, 2021. CNS photo/Alkis Konstantinidis, Reuters

Movement goes forward under Laudato Si’ banner

  • August 12, 2021

The Global Catholic Climate Movement is no more. A new name has been given to the planet-spanning network of Catholic climate activists and has been personally endorsed by the Pope.

In every corner of the globe, inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, it is now the Laudato Si’ Movement.

Renaming a Catholic movement is no exercise in corporate rebranding, said the movement’s Canadian co-ordinator Agnes Richard.

“(We’re) thinking about it as a sacramental change,” she said. “It’s a confirmation — a confirmation of who we are now.”

Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny called the new name a prayer.

“When we name the movement now, every time we name it we’re saying a prayer,” Czerny told a global online meeting to announce the new name July 29. “Laudato Si’ — praised be the creator, praised be the creator, may the creator help us to be worthy, responsible and caring creatures.”

Czerny also highlighted the world movement in the network’s new label.

“We are not trying to build something stable. We’re trying to get going. We’re trying to move. We’re trying to get somewhere. We’re trying to improve,” he said.

The Catholic organization now has the next climate summit in Glasgow in its sights. Laudato Si’ Movement will be there at COP26 with Pope Francis Nov. 1-12 to present a petition to world leaders, demanding they act on the latest UN climate change report, in which the world’s climate scientists document that global temperatures have already risen 1.2 degrees and warn that only all-out, urgent action will be able to prevent the world from exceeding the 1.5-degree target named in the Paris climate agreement.

Effective action on climate change isn’t going to be possible without the kind of deep, cultural and spiritual change that religions must be there to support, said ecotheologian and Elliott Allen Institute director Hilda Koster of the University of St. Michael’s College.

“It isn’t just a matter of technological fixes and political solutions,” she said.

The Laudato Si’ Movement is poised to be the means of real change in the Catholic Church and Christianity more broadly, said Koster.

“We need a change of our hearts. We need a change in our worldview. We need a very different relationship with the natural world. We need that collectively. We need it at an individual level and we need it collectively,” she said. “It is about values. Religions have something to say about that.”

Koster frames this change as the opposite of turning away from tradition to merely fashionable concerns. It is a return to fundamental Christian teaching.

“The destruction of planetary life by human-made climate change is not something Catholics can ignore or be non-committal about. It touches the heart of the Christian confession. God created the world and declared it good. We are collectively undoing that goodness,” she said.

It’s impossible to be true to the Gospel of Jesus and treat climate change as a side issue.

“We’re called to love our neighbours. If our neighbours are dying, are perishing, because of our fossil fuel consumption, what kind of loving neighbour is that?” Koster asked.

The new name should help Canada’s bishops to do more than issue statements about the environment, said Sabrina Chiefari, creation care animator for the Sisters of St. Joseph. She wants to see the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) come out of their September plenary meeting with environmental action plans to give to parishes.

“The bishops, and this can be a consideration that goes across what the CCCB does, they need to be able to equip the parishes, parish leaders, with the pastoral tools necessary to understand this,” she said.

The Laudato Si’ Movement has not yet applied for CCCB recognition as an official Catholic movement in Canada.

“Canada’s bishops remain steadfastly committed to encouraging the care of creation and our common home,” said CCCB spokesperson Lisa Gall in an e-mail.

As co-ordinator for the movement in Canada, Richard hopes to see parishes ready to welcome Laudato Si’-trained animators to lead programs.

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