Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Exhortation on October 3, 2023 entitled Laudate Deum 1. He told Catholics and anyone else who would listen that they should protect the environment and indigenous people. It is the second part of his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, in which he criticized excess consumerism and irresponsible development, while lamenting environmental degradation and global warming2-3.

He asked all people of the world to take swift and unified global action. This encyclical was named after a canticle (or song) that was written by Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’s namesake. The canticle was entitled Laudato Si’, mi ‘ Signore, or “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In it, Saint Francis told us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. When translated into English, his words were: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs”.

The encyclical Laudato Si’ was written because humanity in general and specifically many Catholics were not doing enough to protect the environment and indigenous people who live in tropical rain forests3. Pope Francis said that in the eight years since Laudato Si’ was published, “our responses have not been adequate” to address ongoing ecological concerns. He also wrote that climate change is “one of the principal challenges society and the global community is facing,” the pope wrote in the document, arguing that its effects are borne by the world’s “most vulnerable people” and that the climate issue is “no longer a secondary or ideological question.” Francis wrote that the effects of climate change “are here and increasingly evident,” and warned of increasing heat waves and the possible melting of the polar ice caps, which he said would lead to “immensely grave consequences for everyone.” “No one can ignore the fact that in recent years, we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought, and other cries of protest on the part of the Earth that are only a few palpable expressions of a silent disease that affects everyone.”

Since 2015, Pope Francis has continued to warn about the potential devastation posed by global climate change. In 2021, he launched the Catholic Church’s seven year “Laudato Si’” action plan. He described the Catholic Church’s part in “a new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world.”

Protecting the environment has always been important to Pope Francis. Shortly after Luadate Si was published, it was widely recognized as a revolutionary papal document for its emphasis on Catholic ecological responsibility. The President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the USA (President Bishop Joseph Kurtz) called the encyclical “our marching orders for advocacy.” The document launched the Laudato Si’ Movement, which is a “broad range of Catholic organizations and grassroots members from all over the world” walking “on a journey of ecological conversion.” Pope Francis conceded that the Catholic Church “does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” but in the exhortation this week the Holy Father took a more forceful line, criticizing those who “have chosen to deride [the] facts” about climate science and stating bluntly that it is “no longer possible to doubt the human - ‘anthropic’ - origin of climate change.” “It is not possible to conceal the correlation of these global climate phenomena and the accelerated increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly since the mid-20th century,” Francis wrote. “The overwhelming majority of scientists specializing in the climate support this correlation, and only a very small percentage of them seek to deny the evidence.”

Francis said in his encyclical that a “technocratic paradigm” has “destroyed” the mutually beneficial relationship with the environment that humans have at times enjoyed. Humanity’s “power and the progress we are producing are turning against us,” the Pope argued.

Then, the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference encouraged us to inspire a decisive acceleration of a transition to clean energy and effective commitments to continue monitoring global temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions. Pope Francis argued, however, that longtime global diplomatic arrangements have failed to meet the challenges of the climate emergency. He described the need for “spiritual motivations” for climate action. He even noted that the Book of Genesis records that, upon creation of the universe, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Moreover, Genesis 2:15 calls on us to be good stewards of the Earth, while 1 Peter 4:10 says that each of you should use whatever gift you have to serve others.

‘Praise God’ is the title of the most recent letter, Laudate Deum. Pope Francis wrote at the encyclical’s conclusion. “For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.” Note that Pope Francis is from the very Catholic country of Argentina in South America, which shares a border with the even more Catholic country of Brazil. He recognizes that the Amazon rain forest must be preserved and that the indigenous people living there must be protected. This is extremely relevant because the President of Brazil from 2019 through 2022 was Jair Bolsonaro. During this time, he refused to enforce Brazilian laws that protected the Amazon rain forest from deforestation caused by illegal operations. The Amazon rain forest has been called part of the Earth’s lungs. So, tropical rain forests help to slow down the increase in the greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) caused by human activity. Between August 1, 2019 and July 31, 2021 more than 8.4 million acres of the Amazon rain forest disappeared due to human activity. This does not include many losses caused by natural wild fires. At the same time, the places where indigenous people lived were destroyed. This led to the deaths by starvation of many innocent men, women and children. Then, on October 2, 2022 Brazil held an election for President. Jair Bolsonaro was opposed by a very different man, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who goes by the name Lula. He and Bolsonaro are both Catholics, as are most Brazilians. So, any message from the Pope is taken very seriously. Lula won a close election. Much of the world rejoiced. Recently, it was announced that deforestation had been reduced by 20% since Lula became President. Also, on October 23, 2023 Lula vetoed a bill that would have restricted claims for lands that indigenous people had lived on for centuries. So, he has forced Brazilians to respect the rain forest and the souls who live in it. May God bless Lula and the great people of Brazil. By the way, Brazil is so far from the United States that none of the people trying to enter the USA from the Mexican border are Brazilian.

Even though most people who read this article are not Brazilian, there is much that we can do. We can vote for candidates who recognize that global climate change is the greatest threat to national security – not just in the USA but in other countries.

There are many grave consequences if global climate change is not stopped. Ocean levels will increase, causing flooding in many large coastal cities, from Miami, Florida to Saigon in Vietnam. At the same time, countries will struggle to obtain clean water and adequate food. The temperatures will rise to such a level that humans won’t be able to survive. There may not be any humans left if global climate change is not reversed. The lives of our youngest and most vulnerable people are at grave risk.


1 Pope Francis. Laudate Deum. Dicastero per la Comunicazione - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 4 Oct., 2023. "Laudate Deum": Apostolic Exhortation to all people of good will on the climate crisis (4 October 2023) | Francis (vatican.va).
2 Payne, D. Catholic News Agency, 4 Oct., 2013. Pope Francis issues new call for dramatic climate change measures | Catholic News Agency.
3 Pope Francis. Pope Francis. Laudato Si’. Dicastero per la Comunicazione - Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 18 June, 2015. Laudato si' (24 May 2015) | Francis (vatican.va).