Laudate Deum (“Praise God for all his creatures"), an apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, is welcomed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) as an important message to a world that is spiralling towards climate collapse.
“For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies,” Pope Francis states in the letter. Laudate Deum courageously addresses the economic and political powers as well as worldviews and paradigms that, by questioning scientific findings and promoting false technological solutions to the climate crisis, are hindering essential and timely actions.
We cannot agree more with Pope Francis’ statement that the phase-out of all fossil fuels is “an urgent and necessary step” towards meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement. Science has confirmed that new oil, gas, or coal fields are incompatible with keeping global temperature rise at the relatively safe limit of 1.5°C. It is in this vein that the WCC, at its central committee meeting last June 2023, endorsed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty advanced by countries most affected by yet contributing least to the crisis, with a view to strengthening and codifying legal obligations with respect to the global phase-out of fossil fuels.
Pope Francis recognises that, even with all the inadequacies and limitations of the multilateral system, “the most effective solutions will not come from individual efforts alone, but above all from major political decisions on the national and international level.” Indeed, the scale of the crisis demands a global, coordinated, and integrated approach that can only be forged through the climate conferences convened by the United Nations (UN). The WCC, together with ecumenical, interfaith, and civil society partners, commits to engage in this space, specifically the 28th Conference of the Parties or COP28 which will be held in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December, to speak truth to power and hold governments and corporations accountable for their historic responsibilities towards vulnerable communities and the planet. At the same time, Pope Francis encourages the efforts of households to reduce pollution and waste and to consume with prudence, creating a new culture where personal, family, and community habits are transformed and push the political sectors for positive change.
In Laudate Deum, Pope Francis reflects that “God has united us to all his creatures” and invites all people to join the “pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home.” Likewise, the WCC 11th Assembly held in September 2022 calls for “A Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity.” Just relationships and reparations underpin reconciliation and unity. If we are to overcome the climate crisis, humanity must learn to share resources, make reparations, transcend divisions, work together, and unify efforts to move the world to a more just and sustainable future. In other words, “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).