Top 10 Highlights 2019

December 17, 2019

Throughout 2019, Global Catholic Climate Movement was enriched by the presence of the Holy Spirit. In collaboration with thousands of local Laudato Si’ Animators and our 900+ member organizations, we brought Laudato Si’ to life throughout the world.

2019 was a year of great progress for our movement. But the urgency of the environmental crisis demands we do even more. Climate change is coming faster and stronger than scientists expected. The poorest of our brothers and sisters are already living in a world where extreme weather, growing hunger, and more sickness are the “new norm.”

We proclaim with Laudato Si’ that “truly, much can be done!” These are our top 10 highlights of 2019, and they represent hundreds more actions accomplished by our diverse network.

Pope Francis at Season of Creation event in the Vatican gardens

1. Pope Francis stands up for creation

In May, Pope Francis delivered a stern warning to fossil fuel executives, telling them that “time is running out!” and that “the climate crisis requires our decisive action, here and now and the Church is fully committed to playing her part.”

In September, the pontiff promoted the Season of Creation as never before, an initiative that has long been celebrated by Christian communities around the world. He opened the season by delivering its first-ever papal message inviting the universal Church to participate. The message included a warning that we are in a state of “climate emergency.”

Pope Francis closed the season by holding the first-ever papal Season of Creation event. In word and in deed, the Holy Father demonstrated that caring for our common home is an essential way to put our Catholic values into action.

Community member in the Amazon (credit REPAM)

2. The Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region brings the margins to the center

The Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region explored how integral ecology is applied to this precious place in creation. This work was tragically given extra impetus by the widespread devastation caused by fires that were illegally set in the Amazon in order to send a signal of support to President Jair Bolsonaro.

Throughout the year, GCCM helped communities prepare for the synod. From reflections on eco-martyrs to a guide for conversations in communities to solidarity with the Amazon during Earth Day, we helped Catholic communities prepare for this milestone for the Church.

On the sidelines of the synod in Rome, we helped organize events as part of the Casa Común series. These included a high-profile conference seen by many as its unofficial opening, a celebratory outdoor luncheon with bishops, indigenous leaders, and others, and a pilgrimage through the streets of Rome.

In Brazil, we helped spearhead a nationwide survey of Catholics’ attitudes on the environment. The survey revealed that 85% of Catholics see destroying the Amazon as a sin, and that they strongly disagree with President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the environment.

GCCM Executive Director Tomás Insua with Pope Francis
and Greta Thunberg (credit Servicio Fotografico Vaticano)

3. Young Catholics stand with the Church

Along with the wealth of activities for young people at World Youth Day in January, we helped launch Laudato Si’ Generation, the climate movement by and for young Catholics.

Speaking on the main stage immediately after Pope Francis, the young activists proposed a prophetic manifesto to Cardinal Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, who accepted it on behalf of the Church. The young people organized the world’s biggest group hug, which was captured on film and turned into a compelling video for social media. The movement was partly inspired by Greta Thunberg, with whom we collaborated for an encounter with Pope Francis and for the broader youth mobilizations.

Season of Creation event in Manila

4. The Season of Creation reaches new heights

From its origins in the Orthodox Church to its embrace by the ecumenical family, the Season of Creation has grown to be a regularly anticipated event on the Christian calendar. This year, more than 1200 events around the world brought the Season of Creation into local communities. From implementing practical sustainability measures to deepening eco-spirituality to advocating for climate justice, communities showed that the Season of Creation is an important part of the Christian calendar.

The momentum at the grassroots level was echoed throughout the Church. Pope Francis posted about the Season of Creation on social media, including tweets on prayer, lifestyle and advocacy, and the #SeasonOfCreation hashtag and an Instagram post on his Season of Creation event, among others. Following an invitation from Mons. Bruno Marie Duffé, the secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, for bishops and pastors to celebrate, twelve bishops or bishops’ conferences issued statements about the season. Read more about the Season of Creation 2019 here.

Climate strike in Australia

5. Climate strikes lift up a united voice for climate justice

Laudato Si’ Generation organized nearly 500 climate strikes around the world in 2019. Standing alongside sisters and brothers from youth movements and their adult allies, these young Catholics lifted a united voice for the generation that will live with the consequences of the decisions we make today. Churches around the world rang their bells in support of the strikers.

Public support for Catholic divestment

6. Catholic institutions lead the divestment movement

The bishops participating in the Amazon Synod formally supported divestment as a response to the appeal of indigenous leaders. That was complemented with action: with nearly 40 new commitments in 2019, Catholic institutions stepped up their prophetic divestment from fossil fuels.

The 160+ Catholic institutions that have now committed to leave fossil fuels behind lead by example, inspiring others to take a stand for creation. Worldwide, the divestment movement reached a new milestone, with the value of divesting institutions topping $1 trillion. Catholics are the single-largest source of commitments in the global movement.

Prayer service in Chile

7. Circles and retreats deepen community eco-spirituality

Laudato Si’ Circles, which are devoted to eco-spirituality formation in small groups, became a valuable way for communities to grow in love and action. Nearly 200 Laudato Si’ Circles were launched in communities around the world, enriched by monthly reflection resources and ways to connect with other Circles.

Laudato Si’ Retreats enabled communities to spend time together in reflection on the themes of Laudato Si’. Local leaders organized over 80 retreats in 2019.

Event organized by a Laudato Si’ Animator in the US

8. Chapters and Animators drive action forward

Laudato Si’ Animators championed integral ecology in their parishes, universities, and dioceses. More than 1,300 Animators organized events, spoke with their pastors, and kept the conversation on creation alive in their communities. In-person Animator trainings in countries like Italy, Poland, and France brought relationships to life in a new way.

GCCM Chapters organized advocacy, sustainability, and spirituality initiatives for 25+ regions, bringing this new program to the fore in communities around the world.

Tree-planting in Mozambique

9. Catholic communities generate momentum on Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day, GCCM’s grassroots champions organized more than 300 events. To show solidarity with the Amazon rainforest and forests around the world these champions planted 18,000 trees. With lesson plans, advocacy templates, and a full event planning guide, GCCM equipped communities to live out their calling on creation.

Luis Cardinal Tagle, a member of the advisory council,
with GCCM

10. We welcome new people to the GCCM family

A new advisory council with prominent Cardinals brought essential wisdom to our work, and we expanded our steering committee, with wonderful new members from Colombia, Uruguay, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Lebanon, Belgium, Italy, Fiji, France, and Peru.

Our staff team also grew in 2019, when we welcomed new team members from the UK, the US, the Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, and Poland.

Working together with the Holy Spirit and with the bishops, pastors, and laypeople who are the face of the Laudato Si’ movement, GCCM explored new territory and deepened our efforts in 2019. The year ahead promises even greater growth and collaboration. Please see this summary of our 2020 plans for more information.