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May 29, 2020

Laudato Sí After Five Years

Hearing the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor

Two children play in the mud with windmills in the background.

Five years ago, Pope Francis wrote Laudato Sí, the first papal encyclical to focus on care for creation as a central moral obligation. His groundbreaking letter brought together the call to protect the environment and to defend the “least of these” through an integral ecology that challenges all of us. The letter is a hopeful call to action, holding that climate change is a moral test as well as a scientific reality and policy challenge.

In cooperation with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the Initiative hosted an online dialogue on the powerful message, continuing importance, and future implications of Laudato Sí with one of its architects from the Vatican, a theologian focused on environmental ethics, a leader in acting and educating on the encyclical, and a grassroots voice on the front lines of environmental justice.

Laudato Sí After Five Years Video Player

Showing the Laudato Sí After Five Years Video

These respected leaders discussed the message and impact of Laudato Sí, exploring:

  • After five years, what is the most crucial contribution of this encyclical? What was new and distinctive? How does it challenge the world, the United States, and each of us today?
  • What is Laudato Sí’s relevance in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis?
  • A central theme of the encyclical is to bring together an environmental ethic with the pursuit of social and economic justice: “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” What does this require today? How does this challenge the environmental movement, the Church, and each of us?
  • Pope Francis focused on the need for understanding, dialogue, and action on the moral, human, and policy dimensions of environmental challenges. Where are we five years later, and what needs to be done now?

Kim Daniels, associate director of the Initiative, moderated the conversation.

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental… Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

—Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, 2014

This online session was an Initiative Public Dialogue, Salt and Light Gathering, and Latino Leader Gathering and was held in cooperation with the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.


Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Peter Turkson is prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, a leader in the development and implementation of Laudato Sí, and the leader of the new Vatican COVID-19 Commission.

Dan Misleh

Dan Misleh

Dan Misleh is the founder and director of Catholic Climate Covenant, which engages the U.S. Catholic community at the national, state, and diocesan levels in a serious and sustained conversation about a Catholic approach to climate change.

Kim Wasserman

Kim Wasserman

Kim Wasserman is the executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, Illinois, which has led several campaigns, including one that resulted in the closure of two local coal power plants. She is the 2013 recipient of the Goldman Prize for North America.

Christiana Zenner

Christiana Zenner

Christiana Zenner is an associate professor of theology, science, and ethics in the department of theology at Fordham University. Her research has focused on emerging and established fresh water ethics and its intersection with the ecological turn in Catholic social teaching.