By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ahead of the ecumenical celebrations of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation Sept. 1 and the monthlong “Season of Creation,” Pope Francis said he is writing a follow-up document to his 2015 encyclical on the environment.
“I am writing a second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems,” the pope told a group of lawyers Aug. 21 during a meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace. He provided no further information.
But Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told Vatican News the letter will focus especially on recent climate crises.
Speaking to young people in Lisbon, Portugal, at the International Congress on the Care of Creation July 31, Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, drew attention to how “overwhelming global evidence shows that humans have significantly altered all the earth’s systems — the atmosphere, the oceans, the continents and ecosystems — the whole community of life on earth.”
He pointed to “disturbing concurrent trends” of ice rapidly disappearing from glaciers and the Arctic and Antarctic seas, ocean temperatures rising and extreme weather events like floods and wildfires becoming more frequent and more intense.
Muriel Fleury, who leads the communication section of the dicastery, told Catholic News Service Aug. 24 that the pope’s announcement was welcome news because people around the globe are worried, they listen to Pope Francis and every group of bishops that visits the dicastery raises questions and concerns about the environment and Catholic teaching on ecology.
Pope Francis also mentioned the new document July 26 when he spent an hour responding to questions from young people from the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, according to Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli. “We decided to keep mum about it, to let Pope Francis share the news when he wanted,” the archbishop posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The archbishop told CNS the papal announcement came in response to a question from one of the young people and his answer showed them “his deep concern that the care of our common home needs even greater attention. You could sense the urgency in his reply.”
“Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” was the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on the need for an “integral ecology” that respects the dignity and value of the human person, helps the poor and safeguards the planet.
A few months after the encyclical was published, Pope Francis instituted the Catholic Church’s celebration of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, joining the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has observed the Sept. 1 day of prayer since 1989.
In time for the 2023 celebration, the Vatican Philatelic and Numismatic Office published the designs it has chosen for stamps drawing attention to the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. They are very “Laudato Si’,” which is the opening phrase of St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation.
The new stamps feature a watercolor by Franciscan Father Giuseppe Murdaca, pastor of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Reggio Calabria, Italy.
The words, “Laudato il Signore Opere Sue” (“Praise the Lord, all his works”), are in the center of the painting, surrounded by water, a dove, the sun, the moon and a lamb walking on green fields.
The figures’ placement around the words are meant as “a sign of the embrace of God who was pleased to create the conditions necessary for human life,” the Philatelic and Numismatic Office said in a press release. “Its message calls humanity to ecological conversion.”
A central premise of both the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and Pope Francis’ message for the Season of Creation is that it is not too late to act and, in the pope’s words, convert.
Cardinal Czerny told young people in Lisbon, the pope’s message is theological and spiritual.
“The required change is much more than simply political or technological solutions,” the cardinal said. “The climate, along with the atmosphere, earth and waters of our planet, constitute a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. We must become more aware of our common origin, our mutual belonging, and our shared future. This basic knowledge would permit development of new convictions, new connections and attachments, new styles of life.”
In the pope’s message for the Season of Creation, released in May, Pope Francis called for “an end to the senseless war against creation.”
Christians, he said, must begin with “that ‘ecological conversion’ which St. John Paul II encouraged us to embrace: the renewal of our relationship with creation so that we no longer see it as an object to be exploited but cherish it instead as a sacred gift from our Creator.”