Monday, December 18, 2023
Pope Francis published his Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum (LD) on the climate crisis, addressed to all people of good will, on the on feast of St Francis of Assisi, eight years after his ground breaking Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (LS) on care for our common home. The ecoPope returns to the theme eight years later, because our suffering planet is collapsing at near breaking point and climate change is making havoc everywhere. He explains:

“Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons. We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc.” (LD 2).


The symptoms of our “suffering planet”, due to climate change from global warming through the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are many and plain: hotter temperatures, extreme weather phenomena, frequent heat waves, great droughts and floods, and heavy snowfalls. Ice in the North and South Poles and on glaciers is melting at an alarming rate and sea levels are rising with the resultant flooding of coastal areas; sea waters are warmer, more acidic and with less oxygen thereby threatening the life-systems of our oceans and seas.

The poorest countries of our world are the ones who suffer the worst impact of this climate crisis through health issues, the loss of property and livelihoods and displacement (LD 8). However, it is the richer countries who are the great agents of climate change.

“If we consider that emissions per individual in the United States are about two times greater than those of individuals living in China, and about seven times greater than the average of the poorest countries, we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact” (LD 72), the Pope underlines at the end of his Apostolic Exhortation.

Research by OXFAM and the Stockholm Environment Institute examining carbon emissions reveals that the richest ten percent of the world’s population - about eight hundred million people - are responsible for over half of all CO2 global emissions while the poorest half - some four billion beings - emit only eight percent.

Francis also singles out the growing technocratic paradigm of finance and economy that proclaims a creed of infinite and unlimited growth, getting maximum gain at minimum cost, as another cause for the climate crisis.


To save our common home from collapse, the Pope proposes to re-think the use of power. In order to balance progress, humanity needs also “a development in the values of human responsibility and of conscience” (LD 24).

Integral ecology is another key response to the climate crisis. The Pope wrote in Laudato Sí that one has “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 49). In Laudate Dominum he underlines that “human beings must be recognized as part of nature” (LD 26). “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” (LD 68), he adds.

Noting the unwillingness of politicians to change the current development paradigm - who usually do not go beyond well-crafted soundbites -, the Pope proposes a new multi-lateralism to counter  power concentration into the hands of an elite that makes huge profits from fossil fuels. It empowers civil society and the global/local relationship bringing ‘from below’ solutions to the climate crisis.

Francis reviews the regular climate summits - COP or Conference of Parties - critically. Some were lost opportunities. The agreements to accelerate energy transition shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable sources and to compensate poorer countries for climate damages were not fully implemented.

The Pope also makes a list of spiritual motivations, including the contemplation of the universe as the revealer of God’s beauty and richness which is being held together to the Risen Lord towards its fulness.

“The world sings of an infinite Love: how can we fail to care for it? (LD 65), he asks.

The ‘ecoPope’ invites everyone to join the “pilgrimage of reconciliation” (LD 69) with our common home through little steps that include cultural, lifestyle and conviction changes.

The Pope concludes his reflexion with a very strong pronouncement: “When human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies” (LD 73). So, in short, we have to allow God be God.


How does Laudate Dominum challenge our Mission in Ethiopia? I take five concrete thought-provoking themes from the Apostolic Exhortation.

1. Small is big: “Small changes can cause greater ones” (LD 17).

Catholics in Ethiopia are a very small Church indeed, with less than a million of the Faithful (about 0.8 percent of its population). The Province of the Comboni Missionaries is also tiny: twenty-four Missionaries in eight Communities with another two on their way. Smallness can create a complex of inferiority, leading us to hide in our ‘comfort zone’ — our Missions — at the margins of society.

Yet, Jesus presents God’s Kingdom in terms of smallness: a mustard seed, some yeast. He calls his little flock to be the world’s light, salt and yeast — three things that in great quantities spell only disaster.

The Pope calls the Catholic Church and the Comboni Missionaries in Ethiopia to live their  citizenship ‘in full measure’ without fear. They give a great contribute to education and health. They should also be a leading prophetic voice for the voiceless in times of unrest along ethnic fault lines at regional and national levels especially on issues of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation.

2. Humility: “[Let us] begin to think of ourselves differently, in a humbler but more fruitful way” (LD 68).

As Comboni Missionaries, we went through a huge historic change, especially in the Hawassa Apostolic Vicariate: from its Founders with a very successful missionary history, we became a very small group among its many pastoral agents.

Comboni wanted his missionaries holy and capable … and humble (Writings 6655). For Comboni, humility is a fundamental virtue for serving the Mission, “the foundation of all the virtues” (Writings 2814).

This process of “de-powerment” makes us participants in Jesus’ own kenosis. The Mission is not ours. It is Missio Dei. We are humble workers in God’s own Vineyard. This kenotic process should also affect our relationship with the people we serve and their cultures, taking off the sandals of our ethnocentricity to decolonize our Mission Service.

3. Multi-lateralism: “Globalization favours spontaneous cultural interchanges, greater mutual knowledge and processes of integration of peoples, which end up provoking a multi-lateralism ‘from below’ and not simply one determined by powerful elites” (LD 38).

Multi-lateralism is for the civil society what ministeriality is for the Church: a strong remedy for elitism and clericalism — where Priests and Religious know everything, do everything and command everybody. It should come ‘from below’: by promoting a Ministerial Church where we have to listen to the Christian community, empowering and allowing it to set its own roadmap.

4. Energy transition: “The necessary transition towards clean energy sources such as wind and solar energy, and the abandonment of fossil fuels, is not progressing at the necessary speed” (LD 55).

Carbon is the main cause for the global climate crisis. Energy transition to renewable sources is the only way to arrest and reverse it. We need to reduce our carbon footprint in two ways: (1) by preferring solar to diesel to power our houses; (2) keeping our cars well serviced since we do not have the money to buy electric or new vehicles. Other steps: programme trips, share cars and, when possible, use local means of transport.

5. Pilgrimage of reconciliation: “I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful, because that commitment has to do with our personal dignity and highest values” (LD 69).

There are many small choices that signal our participation in this global reconciliation. They include:

  • opting for a simple and ecologically and economically sustainable lifestyle to reduce our carbon footprint and to counter the evil of consumerism;
  • eating less meat and more protein of vegetable origin since animals contribute to the global warming through methane;
  • buying in bulk or in bigger packages and choosing glass, paper or metallic packaging to curb plastic pollution;
  • reducing waste and engaging in recycling;
  • buying second-hand cloths in local markets to counter the fashion industry which is responsible for ten percent of global carbon emissions;
  • using computers, smartphones and other gadgets to their full life and avoiding the temptation to sport the latest model;
  • keeping our houses repaired, without energy and water losses;
  • reforesting our compounds with indigenous species and avoiding eucalyptus trees.

“Every little bit helps” (LD 70), Francis states. Let us put our little efforts together in order to save our planet and ourselves from the impending which is hovering over our common home.

Fr. José da Silva Vieira, mccj