Creation, ecology, and a cry for mercy

Celia Deane-Drummond, Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford, reflects on the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’ and its continuing relevance for the Church today.

Witnessing through the TV screen the burning wildfires in Australia at the start of the new decade in 2020, destroying people and their homes along with billions of other creatures, brought one thought into my mind: apocalypse. The traumatic suffering of those creatures unable to escape those ferocious fires in a living holocaust was almost indescribable. This is not simply a natural calamity; scientists have been saying for years that climate change will elevate and exaggerate natural disasters on a scale never experienced before. That time has now come. In the UK, we are most likely to suffer floods and erratic weather patterns, but not wildfires which are only really feasible in large continents. Climate change is not simply about the earth heating up. Different forms of devastation will happen in other parts of the world as weather patterns become more and more unpredictable. It is difficult to absorb the scale of what is going on and still retain a sense of purpose.

In such a context, where giving up in despair would be a natural response, the message of Pope Francis’ papal encyclical Laudato Si’, published in 2015, is more relevant than ever. Just as the evil genocide of the innocents by King Herod at the time of Christ’s birth could not overcome divine purpose in the incarnation, so destructive events on a mass scale need not have the final word. Laudato Si’ begins defiantly with praise for the created world around us, and indeed invites other creatures into that praise. Creation is still to be celebrated, even while we need to be closely attentive to what is happening the world over. His message is one of inclusion rather than exclusion. The earth, our common home ‘is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us’.1

Login for more...