The Vatican

Laudate Deum. Pope warns of danger of man "who pretends to take the place of God".

Eight years after the publication of Laudato Si'Pope Francis once again calls for the need for a "path of reconciliation with the world" in his new Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deumpublished today, feast of St. Francis of Assisi, an example of holiness and respect for the common home.

Maria José Atienza-October 4, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes
pope laudate deum

Photo: The Pope at the Vigil before the Synod ©CNS photo/Vatican Media

"We don't have enough reactions while the world that welcomes us is falling apart and perhaps approaching a breaking point", with this statement he begins, practically, Laudate DeumPope Francis' sixth Apostolic Exhortation, which this time focuses on the climate crisis and was published on October 4, 2023, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, three years after Fratelli Tutti.

The Pope begins this letter by focusing on the global climate crisis. Here he stresses how "it is true that not every specific catastrophe can be attributed to global climate change as a matter of course. However, it is verifiable that certain changes in the climate brought about by mankind significantly increase the likelihood of increasingly frequent and intense extreme events". 

This recognition of man's responsibility, together with causes beyond his control, is a constant in this new Apostolic Exhortation, which reminds us, on more than one occasion, that nature is not simply a "framework for man", but that we are all part of it as a result of God's creative power.

Resilience to climate change

The Pontiff mentions the resistance and criticisms that, also within the Church, he notes in the face of what he considers an urgent reality. In this sense, Laudate Deum The "reasons" used to ridicule the concern for environmental degradation, such as frost and rain problems or confusion of information, are some of the reasons that are ridiculed.

The Pope emphasizes at this point that "there is no lack of those who blame the poor because they have many children and even pretend to solve it by mutilating women in less developed countries. As always, it seems that the poor are to blame. But the reality is that a small percentage of the richest people on the planet pollute more than the poorest 50% of the entire world population, and that the per capita emissions of the richest countries are many times greater than those of the poorest. A reality that is rarely highlighted, especially in the so-called Western bloc.

Francis does not hide the difficulty of carrying out a "transition to renewable forms of energy, well managed" to avoid, as has happened on occasions, the destruction of numerous jobs. At this point, the Pope points to the need for politicians and businessmen to take care of an integral management that does not eliminate jobs under the banner of environmentalism.

Everything that ceases to be a gift becomes a slave.

After analyzing risks and situations arising from environmental degradation and the advancing climate crisis, the Pope urges "a broader vision that allows us not only to marvel at the wonders of progress, but also to pay attention to other effects that probably could not even have been imagined a century ago. Nothing more is asked of us than a certain amount of responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind us as we pass through this world". 

In this regard, Francis recalls that already in Laudato Si'offered "a brief development about the technocratic paradigm that is behind the current process of environmental degradation. It is 'a way of understanding life and human action that has deviated and that contradicts reality to the point of damaging it'". An idea of progress and absolute power of man that advances such as Artificial Intelligence have consolidated in many people.

Faced with this idea of unlimited power, the Pope reminds us that "the natural resources required by technology, such as lithium, silicon and so many others, are not unlimited, but the greatest problem is the ideology that underlies an obsession: to increase human power beyond imagination, in the face of which non-human reality is a mere resource at its service. Everything that exists ceases to be a gift to be appreciated, valued and cared for, and becomes a slave, a victim of any whim of the human mind and its capacities". 

In this letter, the Pope once again attacks what he calls the "logic of maximum profit at the lowest cost, disguised as rationality, progress and illusory promises". A logic that has led to the implantation of nuclear waste or the establishment of polluting industries in the poorest areas of the planet without taking into account the life and development of its inhabitants. A logic that, in the Pope's words, "renders impossible any sincere concern for the common home and any concern for promoting the discarded of society".

On this point, the pontiff clarifies, "one thing is a healthy approach to the value of effort, the development of one's own abilities and a laudable spirit of initiative, but if one does not seek real equality of opportunity this easily becomes a screen that further consolidates the privileges of a few with greater power. Within this perverse logic, what do they care about the damage to the common home if they feel safe under the supposed armor of the economic resources they have achieved with their ability and with their effort?"

A common effort

Another of the major blocks of this letter is dedicated to the need for a common effort, a "new multilateralism" that integrates mechanisms for effective cooperation and entails a real commitment on the part of the countries in this regard.

In this line, the Pope recalls in Laudate Deum the need to have a comprehensive vision that addresses these problems in the same way.

"To seek only a technical remedy to every environmental problem that arises," the Pope reminds us, "is to isolate things that in reality are intertwined and to hide the real and deeper problems of the world system."

Once again, the Pope stresses the urgency of "responding to new challenges and reacting with global mechanisms to environmental, health, cultural and social challenges, especially in order to consolidate respect for the most basic human rights, social rights and care for the common home. Only in this way will we be able to overcome the risk of "remaining locked in the logic of patching, patching up, tying up with wire, while a process of deterioration that we continue to nourish continues to advance underneath. 

An appeal to the faithful

Although the title of the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum While addressing "all people of good will," the Pope dedicates the last part of the letter in a special way to believers.

In this sense, Francis recalls, "God has united us to all his creatures". In this area, the pontiff appeals to a situated anthropocentrism, which, while recognizing the "peculiar and central value of the human being in the midst of the marvelous concert of all beings," also recognizes "that human life is incomprehensible and unsustainable without other creatures."

To rethink ourselves and "understand ourselves in a more humble and richer way", this is the proposal of Pope Francis who invites believers "to a path of reconciliation with the world that shelters us, and to embellish it with our own contribution".

Laudate Deum concludes with a call for personal responsibility, stressing that "there are no lasting changes without cultural changes, without a maturation in the way of life and in the convictions of societies, and there are no cultural changes without changes in people". 

Francis closes with a powerful statement "a human being who pretends to occupy the place of God becomes the worst danger to himself", which contains, in summary, the key to Laudate Deum

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