Explainer: Laudate Deum and the call for urgent climate action

Director of Caritas Papua New Guinea Mavis Tito, Caritas Australia CEO Kirsty Robertson and His Eminence Soane Patita Paini Mafi, Caritas Oceania Regional President at the launch event of the Climate Finance report, Twin Clouds, in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Caritas Australia.

On the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, 4th October 2023, Pope Francis released Laudate Deum, an addendum to his 2015 Papal Encyclical Laudato Si’. This new Apostolic Exhortation is a message ‘to all people of goodwill’ on the climate crisis.

What does Laudate Deum mean?

Laudate Deum translates to ‘Praise God.’ In the opening lines of Laudate Deum we are reminded of St Francis of Assisi who praised God for all his creatures. Likewise, Laudato Si’ was inspired by the words of St Francis of Assisi and his Canticle of Creatures.

What are the key messages in Laudate Deum?

Laudate Deum is split into 6 chapters:  

  1. The global climate crisis – where Pope Francis outlines the learnings from the latest IPCC reports.

  2. The growing technocratic paradigm – where we are reminded of the human causes of climate change and the issues around technology and economics.

  3. The weakness of international politics – in which Pope Francis calls out the current multilateralism paradigm and calls for a politics based on subsidiarity.

  4. Climate conferences: progress and failures – the history of the past Climate COPs is scrutinised for their inadequacy to create real change.

  5. What to expect from COP28 in Dubai? – where Pope Francis calls for action to be drastic, intense and a commitment of all (LD 59). The focus that Pope Francis wants to see is on the necessary transition away from a fossil fueled world to the widespread use of clean and renewable energies.

  6. Spiritual motivations – where we are reminded that as people of faith we can all play our part in caring for our common home.

Why did Pope Francis write a ‘sequel’ to Laudato Si’?

This addendum to Laudato Si’ appears to focus primarily on the climate crisis, and the urgency for action at COP28. Laudate Deum cannot be read without first engaging with Laudato Si’ to understand its position within the greater magisterium and connection to the greater ecological crises. Pope Francis sees this current point in time as so important to the future of humanity that an exhortation is necessary to inspire action.

What are some of the key quotes from Laudate Deum?

“I have realised that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.” LD 2

“Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident.” LD 5

“It is no longer possible to doubt the human – “anthropic” – origin of climate change.” LD 11

“To say that there is nothing to hope for would be suicidal, for it would mean exposing all humanity, especially the poorest, to the worst impacts of climate change.” LD 53

“I cannot deny that it is necessary to be honest and recognise that the most effective solutions will not come from the individual efforts alone, but above all from major political decisions on the national and international level.” LD 69

“Efforts by households to reduce pollution and waste, and to consume with prudence, are creating a new culture.” LD 71

What is Laudate Deum calling us to do?

For international politicians, the call from Laudate Deum is clear – at COP 28, all efforts must be put towards policy that ceases the extraction of fossil fuels and at the same time facilitates the just transition to an economy based on renewable energies. This endeavour requires courage to break through the economic interests of the fossil fuel extractors.

At COP27 Caritas Oceania and Jubilee Australia Research Centre presented ‘Twin clouds on the horizon: climate change and debt in the Pacific’. It was the first report to look in detail at debt, climate change and their combined impacts on the Pacific region. Caritas Australia will also be attending COP28 later this year.  

We will build on our research and our work with the Holy See at COP meetings with a flagship Caritas confederation report on Non-Economic Loss and Damage this year. This will set out the cultural, spiritual, and other impacts of climate-induced loss and damage beyond the financial, inspired by the words of Pope Francis.

Damian Spruce, Associate Director Advocacy at Caritas Australia

As individuals, in the lead up to the meeting, we can put pressure on our politicians to support this direction. We are also reminded that ‘every little bit helps’ (LD 70), so that in our own transition to the use of renewable energies and other essential lifestyle changes we are creating a culture of transformation.

Households, schools and parishes are encouraged to engage with the Laudato Si’ action planning process in response to these calls to action. For more information about this process, visit: https://www.caritas.org.au/catholic-earthcare