Tomas Insua writes from World Youth Day

July 28, 2016

Here in Krakow, at Catholic World Youth Day, the atmosphere is electric. A sea of flags bearing the colours of almost every nation in the world serves as a vibrant reminder that over a million young people have travelled from all corners of the globe to build bridges across cultures and celebrate their faith together. Joyous faces abound at the myriad concerts, sports tournaments and workshops on offer. And the times and locations of the masses and speeches to be held by Pope Francis himself are engraved in everyone’s minds.

Together with other young people from the Global Catholic Climate Movement, of which I am a co-founder and Global Coordinator, I have spent my time at the Laudato Si’ Eco-Village in Krakow speaking to young Catholics about how we can all live more sustainably. I have shared some good ideas, and heard a great deal of new ones. Under the hashtag #LiveLaudatoSi, many of the people I’ve spoken to have pledged on social media to cycle to work, engage in climate activism, eat less meat and encourage their parishes to install solar panels on church rooftops, among other things.

As well as pledging to act themselves, young Catholics have been asking governments to invest in their future and work with them to create a better world. On Monday, the Polish and Italian Ministers of the Environment met Vatican officials in Krakow for a conference on the encyclical and young people as protagonists for change. Meanwhile, the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS) and International Young Catholic Students (IYCS), representing over 10 million Catholic students worldwide, called on their heads of state to invest now in the sort of ethical, sustainable jobs that they want to occupy when they hit the job market – such as those in clean energy – and phase out investment in fossil fuel jobs that can have no long-term future if we are to tackle climate change.

While Laudato Si‘s depiction of the ecological crisis can appear overwhelmingly deeply troublesome, then, its translated title – ‘Praise be to you’ – shows us that it is above all a celebratory text, urging us to strive to preserve our planet and reminding us how fantastic a gift it truly is. Conversations with other young people over the last few days in Krakow have reassured me that this is a message that the Laudato Si’ Generation understands – and the future looks brighter because of it.