Top 5 Laudato Si’ Week Highlights

May 28, 2020

During Laudato Si’ Week, hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world came together in the Holy Spirit, honoring the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home.

In the midst of a global pandemic that has exposed the faultlines of injustice in our societies, Catholics united to pray and reflect on how we can build a more just and sustainable future.

At the beginning of the week, there were stark reminders of the urgent need to respond to “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”. In the Philippines, Typhoon Vongfong hit eastern portions of the country. In India, Kolkata experienced its strongest cyclone in three decades. A warming planet makes stronger storms more likely, with devastating consequences for “the least of these.”

After Typhoon Vongfong, photo Yeb Saño

These storms forced over three million people to leave their homes and gather in impromptu evacuation centers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The human suffering caused by these storms offers a tragic example of how the climate crisis can make difficult situations nearly impossible to bear.

Filled with compassion for the most vulnerable, illuminated by the urgency of the crisis, and united by the Holy Spirit, Catholics came together to reflect on how we can build a more just and sustainable world.

Here are the top five highlights of Laudato Si’ Week.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis leads the way

Pope Francis has inspired Catholics everywhere with his visionary leadership. In 2015, he wrote Laudato Si’, helping the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics better understand that “everything is connected” and putting millennia of Catholic teaching in the context of today’s ecological crisis.

This March, Pope Francis invited Catholics to join Laudato Si’ Week.

To begin and end the week, Pope Francis mentioned Laudato Si’ Week during the Regina Coeli of 17 May and 24 May. Moreover, Francis devoted his weekly catechesis of 20 May to “the mystery of Creation”, inviting us to reconnect with the beauty of Creation: “It is enough to contemplate a starry sky, a sunset, a flower, to reignite the spark of thanksgiving.”

Throughout Laudato Si’ Week, Pope Francis’ personal social media accounts celebrated Laudato Si’ Week, sparking nearly 1 million interactions with the Laudato Si’ message.

At the end of Laudato Si’ Week, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development announced its Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year, a year-long program to celebrate and accelerate action to bring the encyclical to life.

A gesture of solidarity in Kenya

Catholics everywhere are inspired to act

Around the world, hundreds of thousands of Catholics honored the anniversary of Laudato Si’ and reflected on building a better world together.

To begin the week, thousands joined a deeply moving two-day retreat. To conclude the week, the global Catholic family joined as one in the global day of prayer. At noon local time, Catholics everywhere prayed the Laudato Si’ Week prayer in their languages, creating a wave of prayer for creation and the most vulnerable around the world.

photos Richter Frank-Jurgen, UNclimatechange

As the core global events of Laudato Si’ Week, a series of online workshops were led by transformational global leaders including

Laudato Si’ Week inspired hundreds of thousands more through media coverage from around the world, as hundreds of news stories were published in the world’s languages.

In addition to the core global workshops, hundreds of local actions truly gave this initiative meaning. As just a few examples,

  • In Bergamo, Italy, one of the cities most affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Diocese of Bergamo invited its members to reflect on Laudato Si’ during the quarantine through online videos, a creative adaptation to the limits on social interaction.
  • In Kenya, the head bishop of the East African Episcopal Conference planted a tree in a public garden, standing in solidarity with people across the region who have suffered from unseasonal flooding and the historic locust outbreak, both made more likely by climate change.
  • In Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and dozens of other countries, thousands of Catholics participated in locally organized webinars to reflect on how to bring Laudato Si’ to life.
  • In the Philippines and throughout Asia, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences encouraged the faithful to find hope together by sending WhatsApp messages about the encyclical and Laudato Si Week.

St. Peter’s, photo National Endowment for the Humanities

Catholic institutions lead the charge

Inspired by the Holy Spirit and united by the urgency to bring about a more just and sustainable world, Catholic institutions led actions for Laudato Si’ Week. 

As the sponsor of the initiative, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development launched a wave of action that touched the faithful on six continents. 

151 official partner organizations, including us at Global Catholic Climate Movement, Renova, Caritas Internationalis, CIDSE, Consilium Conferentiarum Episcoporum Europe (CCEE), the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean Religious (CLAR), United Nations Environment Programme, and dozens more, communicated with their networks and organized actions.

In addition to the 151 official partners, hundreds of institutions big and small participated in the initiative. From the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile to the Southern Africa Foundation, Catholic institutions were truly touched by the spirit of solidarity and hope that unites us.

installing solar panels, photo U.S. Department of Agriculture

Divestment

As part of the Laudato Si’ Week commemoration, 42 faith institutions from 14 countries announced their divestment from fossil fuels. This was the largest-ever joint announcement of divestment from faith institutions.

Faith leaders called on governments to build a more just and sustainable economy as they fund massive investments as part of the coronavirus recovery. These leaders’ message is clear: Fossil fuels have no place in a healthy future.

Illustrating the need for a just recovery, the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Bangladesh was among the institutions that committed to divest. Bangladesh is home to the world’s largest refugee camp, where more than half a million people live near the Bay of Bengal. The Bay of Bengal is extremely vulnerable to the greater risk of catastrophic storms that come with climate change.

A viral pandemic and a catastrophic storm would bring one of the world’s most vulnerable communities to a halt, illustrating the need to repair the faults that have left economies near the breaking point.

The prophetic stand of these 42 courageous institutions inspired a wide range of people, from leading climate change activist Bill McKibben to policy watchers in Brussels.

Laudato Si’, photo British Province of Carmelites

Laudato Si’ special anniversary year

During Laudato Si’ Week, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development announced the launch of the Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year, 12 months of celebrating and accelerating action on the encyclical.  

The next global milestone in the anniversary year is the Season of Creation, the annual celebration of prayer and action for our common home. During the Season of Creation, Catholics will act on the deep prayer and reflection experienced in Laudato Si’ Week. 

The Season of Creation takes place from 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, through 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis. 

Mgr. Bruno-Marie Duffé, secretary of the dicastery, wrote a moving invitational letter inviting clergy and laypeople alike to join the season, with a special invitation for bishops to issue statements of support.

Grateful beyond words

During Laudato Si’ Week and beyond, a spirit of hope, compelled by the Holy Spirit, united Catholics around the world.  While we continue to suffer injustice and the devastating effects of the ecological crisis, we see unity and commitment rising in Catholics everywhere. 

The Catholic family is grateful to Pope Francis, God our Creator, Jesus our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit for showing us that, truly, “everything is connected.”