Eight years after a first warning against the consequences of climate change, Pope Francis published an addendum to this founding text on Wednesday to take stock and propose new actions.
The publication of this sequel to his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si" ("Praise be to you"), comes a few weeks before the start in Dubai of climate negotiations under the aegis of the UN, COP28, while targets for reducing carbon emissions seem increasingly difficult to achieve.
The new papal text, called “Laudate Deum” (“Praise God”), will be “a look at what has happened and say what must be done,” said the 86-year-old pope.
The original document, of nearly 200 pages, was not intended only for the 1,3 billion Catholics claimed by the Church but for all humanity, a call for global solidarity to act together to protect "our commune house".
Based on climate research, it clearly stated that humanity is responsible for global warming and warned that rapid change and degradation had brought the world to the brink of "breaking point."
Francis' message also had a strong moral connotation, denouncing the responsibility of consumerism, individualism and the pursuit of economic growth at the expense of the planet. For the Argentine Jesuit, rich countries must accept that they are the main responsible for the climate crisis and help the poor countries which suffer the heaviest consequences.
“Laudato si” had evoked a debate on a global level, an unprecedented phenomenon for a religious text, including scientific journals. A few months later, significant progress was obtained with the Paris climate agreement, the primary objective of which is to keep the temperature rise below 2°C.
According to observers, the Vatican played an important role behind the scenes.
The UN warned last month that the world was not on track to achieve this goal, with 2023 expected to be the hottest year in human history, with a summer marked by heatwaves , droughts and fires.
“It is time to work together to stop the ecological catastrophe before it is too late,” the pope recently urged during a video intervention on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The new text should be much shorter than its previous one, and its format, an apostolic exhortation instead of an encyclical, to carry less weight in Catholic theology.
For Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, this text should not have the same impact.
According to him, “Laudato Si” had turned the tables, making climate change a real subject for the Catholic Church, but also leading to a debate within the scientific community. While Francis has made this theme a pillar of his pontificate, its influence is no longer what it used to be: "the moral authority of the Catholic Church has declined significantly over the past eight years", notably due to " the crisis of sexual assault" on minors, believes Professor Edenhofer.
In 2015, Francis, elected two years earlier, "was perceived as one of the great moral leaders, one of the most important leaders in the world", while today "the world is in crisis, the Church is in crisis.
On the 5th anniversary of the encyclical in 2020, the Vatican called on Catholics to withdraw their investments from the fossil fuel sector. Symbolically given its tiny size, the Vatican State has also committed to eliminating its carbon emissions by 2050.
This year, the highly respected Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) in collaboration with the Vatican published a pamphlet based on "Laudato Si" giving succinct explanations of pressing issues in an attempt to inspire people to action.
“What is needed now is both individual and collective action to resolve the triple planetary crisis that we face: climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity,” the official explained to AFP. . of this project, Molly Burd.
“Religious leaders, like all true leaders, can play a role in influencing behavior within the communities they lead.”
The Editorial Board (with AFP)