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1. Whom is Laudate Deum addressed to?

As the Pope states in the opening, it is meant for “all people of good will” about the climate crisis. However, just like in Laudato Si’ he addresses “every person living on this planet” due to the gravity of the situation, in Laudate Deum he also asks ”everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful.” (LD 69)

2. How does Laudate Deum relate to Laudato Si’?

For starters, an important clarification: Laudate Deum is an apostolic exhortation, not an encyclical. This means that Laudate Deum–even if tremendously important–has slightly lower “ranking” than Laudato Si’, so to speak, within official Catholic teaching.

Laudate Deum it is referred to as a sort of “supplement” to Laudato Si’ (which is why it is informally known as “Laudato Si’ Part 2”). It is a relatively short document at 7,000 words, compared to the 38,000 words of Laudato Si’.

  • Instead of repeating or replacing Laudato Si’, Laudate Deum enriches and deepens a few aspects of it (the climate crisis, specifically) that Pope Francis deemed worth expanding on in light of recent developments that concern him.
  • In fact, several big topics from Laudato Si’ are absent here–and that is to be expected. Laudato Si’ continues to be the guiding star for the “big picture” of the crisis facing our common home and the core principles to deal with it. 

3. What does “Laudate Deum” mean?

Laudate Deum means “Praise God” in Latin. Pope Francis has two lines explaining his choice of the title:

  • “‘Praise God for all his creatures’. This was the message that Saint Francis of Assisi proclaimed by his life, his poetry and all his actions.” (LD 1)
  • “Praise God” is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.” (LD #73)

Relatedly, “Laudato Si’” means “Praised Be” in an ancient Italian dialect (not Latin) and comes from St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures of 1225 AD. “Praise God” is also an expression repeatedly found in the Bible (the famous “Hallelujah”, ancient Hebrew for “Praise God”), especially in many of the Psalms, such as Psalm 148 where all creatures and creation are called to praise God.

4. Why is the subtitle “On The Climate Crisis” significant?

The exhortation’s subtitle, “On the Climate Crisis”, is significant for two reasons:

  • While Laudato Si’ was broad and covered in a holistic way most facets of the ecological crisis (climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, water, inequality, etc.), Laudate Deum is squarely focused on the climate crisis. The Pope is extremely worried about this particular “sub-crisis”, given that it is so closely connected to everything else and given that we are quickly approaching  the “point of no return”.
  • The subtitle reads “On the Climate Crisis”, not “On Climate Change”. This may seem subtle, but it is an important point. Laudato Si’ speaks itself speaks of climate change, so why did Pope Francis change his wording? The word “change” is misleading as it is neutral: change can be good or bad. Language matters, so Pope Francis invites us to change our language and speak of this as an urgent crisis.

5. Why a new exhortation now?

Pope Francis is extremely worried that we are not responding adequately to the climate emergency. As he explains in the introduction:

“Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized 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)

After reviewing the latest alarm bells from climate science, the Pope warns:

“We are now unable to halt the enormous damage we have caused. We barely have time to prevent even more tragic damage.” (LD 16)

Moreover, he has a strong appeal to the upcoming UN climate summit COP28, to be held in Dubai in early December:

“This Conference [COP28] can represent a change of direction, showing that everything done since 1992 was in fact serious and worth the effort, or else it will be a great disappointment.” (LD 54)

In a nutshell, the Pope reminds us that we are at a critical junction in human history (planetary history, actually). Every year of inaction gets us closer to the precipice. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

6. What is the structure of Laudate Deum?

No summary could replace the full exhortation, which is available here.  In a nutshell, the six chapters could be categorized as follows:

  • Chapter 1: The alarm bells of climate science
    The first chapter dives into the latest science, discussing the specifics of human disruption of the climate system in much more detail than Laudato Si’. Among other things, it cites precise scientific data from the IPCC, which is the world’s leading scientific body on climate.
  • Chapters 3, 4 and 5: Multilateralism, COPs & the Energy Transition
    Grounded in the importance of cooperation between nations, the exhortation takes an unprecedented deep dive into the specifics of the UN’s annual climate negotiations (the “COPs”, or Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

    The energy transition away from polluting fossil fuels stands out as the key element analyzed within this COP process. This is notable given that fossil fuels have traditionally been the “elephant in the room” of the climate negotiations. In fact, it took 26 years for fossil fuels to be named in the outcome document of the annual talks.
  • Chapters 2 and 6: The roots in the technocratic paradigm & spiritual motivations
    On top of these detailed discussions of the technicalities of the climate crisis, Pope Francis reminds us of the deeper roots of the climate crisis. He picks up two important themes of the 2015 encyclical: the “technocratic paradigm” and the “spiritual motivations” that are born from our faith, seeing the natural world as a sacred gift from God that we must care for. Technical and policy solutions risk being band-aids, if we miss to tackle what happens in the human heart. Transforming our hearts – a very hard thing – is the only way of achieving sustainable long-term healing of our beloved common home.

7. How can we respond to the Pope’s appeal?

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