By Elise Anne Allen
ROME (Crux) — This week Pope Francis inaugurated “Laudato Si’ Week” at the Vatican commemorating the five-year anniversary of the publication of his eco-encyclical with the same title, opening a wider year-long commemoration of the document aimed at spurring global citizens to adopt more sustainable practices.
Speaking from the library of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace during his livestreamed Regina Caeli address May 17, the Holy Father said the coronavirus has highlighted the importance of “caring for our common home,” and voiced hope that reflections surrounding the Laudato Si’ anniversary will “help to create and strengthen constructive attitudes for the care of creation.”
He then formally inaugurated Laudato Si’ Week, set to run from May 16-24, and which is the beginning of an entire year of activities dedicated to implementing Laudato Si’, beginning May 24, 2020 and ending May 24, 2021.
Though Laudato Si’ was published in June 2015, it was signed by the pontiff May 24 of that year, on the feast of Pentecost.
In a video created for Laudato Si’ Week, Pope Francis questioned viewers, asking, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to the children who are growing up?”
Flashing on scenes of protests from a student-led climate movement, he invited viewers to participate in this week’s activities, and reiterated his “urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis.”
“The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor cannot continue. Let’s take care of creation, a gift of our good Creator God. Let us celebrate Laudato Si’ week together,” he said.
A project of the Vatican department for Integral Human Development, headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year will offer a clear emphasis on both ecological conversion and action, according to a communique from the department.
Five years on, Laudato Si’ is “ever more relevant,” they said, pointing to melting ice caps, recent fires that burned swaths of the Amazon, increasing extreme weather patterns, and a loss of biodiversity as indicators that change is needed.
Noting that the anniversary coincides with the outbreak of a pandemic, the department insisted that the message the encyclical offers “is just as prophetic today as it was in 2015,” and can provide “the moral and spiritual compass for the journey to create a more caring, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world.”
“We have, in fact, a unique opportunity to transform the present groaning and travail into the birth pangs of a new way of living together, bonded together in love, compassion and solidarity, and a more harmonious relationship with the natural world, our common home,” they said, insisting that COVID-19 has demonstrated “how deeply we are all interconnected and interdependent.”
As many countries begin to envision what a post-COVID world will look like, “we need above all an integral approach as everything is closely interrelated and today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis,” they said, adding that the urgency of the climate situation, “calls for immediate, holistic and unified responses at all levels – local, regional, national and international.”
In terms of activities for Laudato Si’ Week, there will be six official digital events in addition to numerous online workshops in English and Spanish on topics such as sustainability, how to live an eco-spirituality in caring for creation, and social action in promoting an integral ecology and building community during the pandemic.
The department is also encouraging parishes to host an online “Common Prayer for Earth and for Humanity” Sunday, 24 May at noon local time, to close Laudato Si’ Week as a means of getting their communities involved in the initiative.
Most events for the anniversary year take place in the fall, including a month-long “Season of Creation,” which is set to begin Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, and which will end Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.
With a suggested theme of, “Jubilee for the Earth,” the event is aimed at helping communities to repair relationships with each other and with creation through a series of events organized at a local level throughout the world.
Scheduled for this fall is also an Oct. 15 meeting dedicated to “Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance,” for the Global Pact on Education, originally set for May 14 at the Vatican, but which has been postponed due to the coronavirus.
Another major conference that was postponed but which is on the Vatican’s fall schedule is the “Economy of Francis” event, which was set to gather 2,000 young economists and entrepreneurs from 115 around the world to help create a “new and courageous culture” by finding innovative models for business which promote human dignity and protect the environment.
Originally set for March 26-28 in the Italian town of Assisi, with Pope Francis attending the final day, the event now is slated for Nov. 19-21, with the pope once again closing the three-day conference, which has the patronage of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
Celebrations for the Laudato Si’ anniversary year are set to close with a May 20-22, 2021 conference in Rome.
As part of this year’s anniversary activities, a “Laudato Si’ Action Platform” will also be launched, with various institutions committing to a 7-year project aimed at reaching total sustainability in the spirit of Laudato Si’.
The initiative is designed to involve families, dioceses and local parishes, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals and other healthcare centers, businesses, farms, and religious orders and provinces in drafting plans for sustainable living going forward.
Among the goals of the platform, according to the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development, are adopting simpler lifestyles and developing “ecological economics” based on sustainable production, fair trade, using less plastic and adopting a more plant-based diet to reduce meat consumption, as well as a broader use of public transport in order to reduce pollution.
According to their communique, the Vatican’s development office intends to launch the platform in early 2021 by inviting several institutions to begin the 7-year project. The following year, they will encourage a new group to join, with the hope of doubling the number of entities committing to the 7-year plan.
“In this way we are planning to grow a Laudato Si’ inspired network that continues to expand and grow exponentially each year,” they said, noting that this initiative will continue for each consecutive year of the new decade, with the goal of arriving at the “critical mass” needed in order to lead a “radical societal transformation” inspired by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.
A series of “Laudato Si’ awards” will also be created and dolled out from 2021 onwards in order to “encourage and promote concerted individual and communitarian action for the care of our common home, and to acknowledge some of the best practices in this regard.”
These awards will be given to families, global leaders, educational institutes, schools and universities, parishes, dioceses, religious communities, movements, and businesses, as well as a range of other individuals and entities in a bid to encourage environmental best-practices.
In a special prayer drafted for the 5-year anniversary of Laudato Si’, it is asked that God “open our minds and touch our hearts,” so that humanity may adequately care for the needs of creation.
“Help us to be conscious that our common home belongs not only to us, but to all of your creatures and to all future generations, and that it is our responsibility to preserve it,” the prayer says, asking that each person secure only the amount of food and resources that they need, and no more.
It asks God to be close to the poor and that he inspire greater solidarity in addressing the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. It also asks that humanity will be given the courage “to embrace the changes that are needed in search of the common good.”
“Enable us to listen and respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” it says, asking that, “the present sufferings be the birth pangs of a more fraternal and sustainable world.”