From the Cardinal: Praising God for our common Home| October 20, 2023
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Vol. 5. No. 3
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
On Wednesday, October 4, 2023, the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, our Holy Father Pope Francis published a new Apostolic Exhortation entitled Laudate Deum (Praise God). This new communication from the pope, which concerns the climate crisis, is addressed to “all people of good will.”
Laudate Deum is a continuation of Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si’, published eight years ago, on June 18, 2015, in which the Holy Father shared with all of us, the “brothers and sisters of our suffering planet,” his heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. As an exhortation, Laudate Deum is a call to action that results from the pope’s conviction that the responses to his call for change in Laudato Si’ have “not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.”
Pope Francis believes that the impact of our current climate crisis goes beyond its profound negative effects on the environment. Humanity itself—especially the poor and vulnerable—is being harmed by the serious consequences of global climate change. “It is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons,” the Holy Father writes. “We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc.”
Laudate Deum begins by quoting St. Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake, who proclaimed by his life, his canticles and all his actions the simple truth that God is to be praised in all creation. All things visible and invisible proclaim the glory of God. If we could only see the world with the eyes of St. Francis, who “reflected the sensitivity of Jesus before the creatures of his Father,” we would never abuse or neglect our common home, which is precious to God. As Pope Francis reminds us, using the powerful words of Scripture: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Mt 6:28-29). “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight” (Lk 12:6).
“How can we not admire this tenderness of Jesus for all the beings that accompany us along the way!” Pope Francis exclaims. This keen awareness that we share with all of God’s creation, the intimate relationship that St. Francis suggests when he speaks of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and when he communes with animals and with nature, reflects a degree of holiness that we are challenged to strive for in our stewardship of our common home.
As Pope Francis sees it, there is an undeniable connection between our care for the environment and our respect for the dignity of human life. “This is a global social issue,” the Holy Father says, “and one intimately related to the dignity of human life.” He then quotes the Bishops of the United States, who, in a 2019 statement on Global Climate Change said:
Our care for one another and our care for the earth are intimately bound together. Climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community. The effects of climate change are borne by the most vulnerable people, whether at home or around the world.
The Holy Father believes that the climate crisis we are experiencing now is a worldwide social problem that impacts both the environment we call our common home and the welfare of every human person on this planet, whether we recognize it or not.
Having offered his reflections on the importance of care for our common home eight years ago in the encyclical Laudato Si,’ Pope Francis wants to move us beyond conversations and discussions on his teaching to actions that will affect real change. Laudate Deum cites some of the multilateral efforts that have been made to achieve positive results. Some, he says, have been successful and others have failed. The pope challenges us to build on what has been accomplished thus far and to learn from our failures without being discouraged.
Laudate Deum expresses the Holy Father’s deep disappointment at what he calls “the weakness of international politics.” Because this is a global crisis, it demands a multilateral response, one that is more than just rhetoric. Pope Francis writes:
35. It is not helpful to confuse multilateralism with a world authority concentrated in one person or in an elite with excessive power: “When we talk about the possibility of some form of world authority regulated by law, we need not necessarily think of a personal authority”.  We are speaking above all of “more effective world organizations, equipped with the power to provide for the global common good, the elimination of hunger and poverty and the sure defense of fundamental human rights”.  The issue is that they must be endowed with real authority, in such a way as to “provide for” the attainment of certain essential goals. In this way, there could come about a multilateralism that is not dependent on changing political conditions or the interests of a certain few and possesses a stable efficacy.
The key is a “world authority” that is not subjected to politics or the self-interest of a few individuals, corporations or nations.
Looking ahead to the next international conference (COP28, which meets from November 30 to December 12, 2023, in Dubai), Pope Francis is cautiously optimistic:
54. If we are confident in the capacity of human beings to transcend their petty interests and to think in bigger terms, we can keep hoping that COP28 will allow for a decisive acceleration of energy transition, with effective commitments subject to ongoing monitoring. This Conference can represent a change of direction, showing that everything done since 1992 was in fact serious and worth the effort, or else it will be a great disappointment and jeopardize whatever good has been achieved thus far.
Challenging “the powers that be,” the pope offers his urgent hope that “those taking part in the Conference be strategists capable of considering the common good and the future of their children, more than the short-term interests of certain countries or businesses.” If world leaders can finally think—and act—for the common good of all, they will demonstrate “the nobility of politics and not its shame.”
In a future newsletter, I will offer some reflections on what Pope Francis calls the “spiritual motivations” born of faith for acting decisively on the root causes of this global crisis. In the meantime, I urge you to read the full text of Laudate Deum, which is shorter than many church documents, and to pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us all to act as one family of faith to protect our common home.
Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer,
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Newark
Statement of U.S. Bishops’ International Justice and Peace Chairman Amidst Violence in the Holy Land
October 8, 2023
In response to the continued tensions and violence that erupted into warfare between Gaza and Israel on October 7, Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace, calls for prayers for peace in the Holy Land:
“On October 7, the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary, the world watched the operation launched from Gaza and the rapid call to arms from Israel that ensued. Almost 50 years to the day of the launch of the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, once again war is spilling out in the Holy Land. With it brings the mounting casualties and hostilities unfolding on all sides, and increased threats to the Status Quo of the Holy Places among Jews, Muslims, and Christians further dimming any hope for peace.
“The world is once again shocked and horrified by the outbreak of ferocious violence in the Holy Land. Reports have surfaced indicating large numbers of wounded and dead, including many civilians.
“I join with Pope Francis in his call for peace and his condemnation of this widespread outbreak of violence. As he stated in his Sunday audience, ‘May the attacks and weaponry cease. Please! And let it be understood that terrorism and war do not lead to any resolutions, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people.’
“May all who love the Holy Land seek to bring about among all the parties engaged in the fighting a cessation of violence, respect for civilian populations and the release of hostages. “
As we pray urgently for peace, we recall especially all the families and individuals suffering from these events. We call on the faithful and all people of good will to not grow weary and to continue to pray for peace in the land Our Lord, the Prince of Peace, called home.”
A Message from Pope Francis: Words of Challenge and Hope
The following is a selection from the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum (Praise God) by Pope Francis, #’s 5–14). To read the full text of Laudate Deum, click here.
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION: LAUDATE DEUM OF THE HOLY FATHER
FRANCIS TO ALL PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS
The Global Climate Crisis
5. Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident. No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought and other cries of protest on the part of the earth that are only a few palpable expressions of a silent disease that affects everyone.
Admittedly, not every concrete catastrophe ought to be attributed to global climate change. Nonetheless, it is verifiable that specific climate changes provoked by humanity are notably heightening the probability of extreme phenomena that are increasingly frequent and intense. For this reason, we know that every time the global temperature increases by 0.5° C, the intensity and frequency of great rains and floods increase in some areas and severe droughts in others, extreme heat waves in some places and heavy snowfall in others.  If up to now we could have heat waves several times a year, what will happen if the global temperature increases by 1.5° C, which we are approaching? Those heat waves will be much more frequent and with greater intensity. If it should rise above 2 degrees, the icecaps of Greenland and a large part of Antarctica  will melt completely, with immensely grave consequences for everyone.
Resistance and confusion
6. In recent years, some have chosen to deride these facts. They bring up allegedly solid scientific data, like the fact that the planet has always had, and will have, periods of cooling and warming. They forget to mention another relevant datum: that what we are presently experiencing is an unusual acceleration of warming, at such a speed that it will take only one generation – not centuries or millennia – in order to verify it. The rise in the sea level and the melting of glaciers can be easily perceived by an individual in his or her lifetime, and probably in a few years many populations will have to move their homes because of these facts.
7. In order to ridicule those who speak of global warming, it is pointed out that intermittent periods of extreme cold regularly occur. One fails to mention that this and other extraordinary symptoms are nothing but diverse alternative expressions of the same cause: the global imbalance that is provoking the warming of the planet. Droughts and floods, the dried-up lakes, communities swept away by seaquakes and flooding ultimately have the same origin. At the same time, if we speak of a global phenomenon, we cannot confuse this with sporadic events explained in good part by local factors.
8. Lack of information leads to confusion between large-scale climate projections that involve long periods of time – we are talking about decades at least – with weather forecasts that at most can cover a few weeks. When we speak of climate change, we are referring to a global reality – and constant local variations – that persists for several decades.
9. In an attempt to simplify reality, there are those who would place responsibility on the poor, since they have many children, and even attempt to resolve the problem by mutilating women in less developed countries. As usual, it would seem that everything is the fault of the poor. Yet the reality is that a low, richer percentage of the planet contaminates more than the poorest 50% of the total world population, and that per capita emissions of the richer countries are much greater than those of the poorer ones.  How can we forget that Africa, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, is responsible for a minimal portion of historic emissions?
10. It is often heard also that efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing cleaner energy sources will lead to a reduction in the number of jobs. What is happening is that millions of people are losing their jobs due to different effects of climate change: rising sea levels, droughts and other phenomena affecting the planet have left many people adrift. Conversely, the transition to renewable forms of energy, properly managed, as well as efforts to adapt to the damage caused by climate change, are capable of generating countless jobs in different sectors. This demands that politicians and business leaders should even now be concerning themselves with it.
11. It is no longer possible to doubt the human – “anthropic” – origin of climate change. Let us see why. The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which causes global warming, was stable until the nineteenth century, below 300 parts per million in volume. But in the middle of that century, in conjunction with industrial development, emissions began to increase. In the past fifty years, this increase has accelerated significantly, as the Mauna Loa observatory, which has taken daily measurements of carbon dioxide since 1958, has confirmed. While I was writing Laudato Si’, they hit a historic high – 400 parts per million – until arriving at 423 parts per million in June 2023.  More than 42% of total net emissions since the year 1850 were produced after 1990. 
12. At the same time, we have confirmed that in the last fifty years the temperature has risen at an unprecedented speed, greater than any time over the past two thousand years. In this period, the trend was a warming of 0.15° C per decade, double that of the last 150 years. From 1850 on, the global temperature has risen by 1.1° C, with even greater impact on the polar regions. At this rate, it is possible that in just ten years we will reach the recommended maximum global ceiling of 1.5° C.  This increase has not occurred on the earth’s surface alone but also several kilometres higher in the atmosphere, on the surface of the oceans and even in their depths for hundreds of metres. Thus, the acidification of the seas increased and their oxygen levels were reduced. The glaciers are receding, the snow cover is diminishing, and the sea level is constantly rising. 
13. It is not possible to conceal the correlation of these global climate phenomena and the accelerated increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly since the mid-twentieth century. The overwhelming majority of scientists specializing in the climate support this correlation, and only a very small percentage of them seek to deny the evidence. Regrettably, the climate crisis is not exactly a matter that interests the great economic powers, whose concern is with the greatest profit possible at minimal cost and in the shortest amount of time.
14. I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. Yet we can no longer doubt that the reason for the unusual rapidity of these dangerous changes is a fact that cannot be concealed: the enormous novelties that have to do with unchecked human intervention on nature in the past two centuries. Events of natural origin that usually cause warming, such as volcanic eruptions and others, are insufficient to explain the proportion and speed of the changes of recent decades.  The change in average surface temperatures cannot be explained except as the result of the increase of greenhouse gases.
My Prayer for You
Let us join with our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land and throughout the world in fervent, heartfelt prayer for peace, justice and reconciliation. Let us work tirelessly to make peace with justice a reality in our hearts, our communities, and among all nations and peoples.