Bishop John in the grounds of Wardley Hall

Bishop praises new papal document on climate crisis

Wednesday 4th October 2023

Pope Francis has released a new document to “clarify and complete” his 2015 Laudato Si’ encyclical on caring for our common home.

The new Apostolic Exhortation, named Laudate Deum – meaning “Praise God” – has been released today (4th October) on the feast of St Francis of Assisi and the end of Season of Creation.

Bishop John, as Lead Bishop for Environmental Issues for the Bishops’ Conference, has praised the new document as being “timely” and “vital”, saying: “I thoroughly welcome the timely and prophetic words of Pope Francis in Laudate Deum who once again implores the international community to alter the path of destruction we are heading down.

“He reminds us that we are all interconnected, and that the decisions we make can have grave consequences, not only for those who are still living, but the generations to follow. It is vital that we all take action to look after our planet.”

In Laudate Deum, the Pope describes climate change leading to drought, extreme weather and global high temperatures as a “silent disease that affects everyone”. The Exhortation frequently defines the climate crisis as a ‘global societal issue’ where the impact and consequences are often felt by those who have contributed least to the crisis but have fewest resources to adapt or respond.

Laudate Deum argues that humans are a part of nature, but that we are currently abusing this position, exploiting natural resources and minerals.

Pope Francis writes: “Humans must be recognised as part of nature.” He adds: “Let us stop thinking, then, of human beings as autonomous, omnipotent and limitless, and begin to think of ourselves differently, in a humbler but more fruitful way.”

Bishop John echoes these thoughts, arguing that the climate crisis gives humanity a good opportunity to consider our relationship with the rest of creation.

He said: “Clearly, the way we are currently living our lives is unsustainable. We need urgent political action, on a global scale, to address this crisis before it’s too late. But it’s also right that we ask ourselves certain questions.

“What is our relationship to God’s creation? Is it a resource for us to make profits from, or a precious gift that we are to protect? Are we stewards of the earth, or exploiters?”

Pope Francis also focuses on international cooperation, calling for a global framework to establish effective rules to safeguard the environment and promote human flourishing. He addresses the lack of progress at the COP international climate conferences and looks ahead to COP28 in Dubai.

Bishop John also laments the lack of progress since the release of Laudato Si’ in 2015, saying: “The unfortunate thing is that eight years on, several COP meetings later, we really have not been achieving the targets that those meetings have agreed, and the damage is not being reduced. In fact, in some ways, it’s increasing.”

The Pope does recognise that “every little bit helps” and suggests that efforts by households to reduce pollution and waste, and to consume responsibly, has created a “new culture” and is transformative: “Let us realise, then, that even though this does not immediately produce a notable effect from the quantitative standpoint, we are helping to bring about large processes of transformation rising from deep within society.”

Bishop John agrees and says we can go further: “There’s certainly more we can be doing. The first point of focus is education. Parishes, schools, and Catholic organisations are, on the whole, committed to being good custodians but we need a more joined-up effort to make sure that we are doing our best to repair the damage we’ve done.

“We’ve got to press ahead and make sure that we are a voice – a voice to our democratic nation that says we must change our policies and our life as a nation.”

Pope Francis finished his letter with an explanation for why he chose that title.

The Pope said: “‘Praise God’ is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.”

Click here to read or download Pope Francis’ Laudate Deum exhortation.

Watch the video below to hear more from Bishop John on our climate crisis:

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