Catholics Living Laudato Si’: GCCM’s Top 10 Highlights for 2017

As Catholics, we find great joy in caring for our common home and, especially, the poorest sisters and brothers who share it. 2017 saw both challenges and joy in the struggle to protect creation.

In the United States, which is one of the most important voices in the global conversation on climate change, a new administration showed its resolve to institute dangerous, retrograde policies. Catholics kept hope alive. From the streets of Washington, D.C. to the rural heartland of the country, Catholic people and parishes spoke truth to power and continued their own journeys toward protecting creation.

Around the world, the conversation moved forward. Communities from Brasilia to Brisbane to Bologna came together to pray and act for the Earth. Although the UN-facilitated Paris climate agreement moved much more slowly than we need to prevent the worst of the climate catastrophe, the process did move forward. Bolstered by our prayers, most negotiators and the wider climate community showed calm commitment in the face of regressive moves from the United States.

Catholics are champions for creation. The Global Catholic Climate Movement is grateful to draw on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and help facilitate the global Catholic community’s work on climate change. Below, please find the top 10 highlights of our progress this year.

GCCM contingent in the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

1. Launching the Live Laudato Si’ Campaign

To celebrate the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, GCCM launched the Live Laudato Si’ campaign. The campaign is a three-year effort to engage 1 million people and institutions in transforming their hearts, improving their lifestyles, and advocating for creation. The centerpiece of the campaign is the Laudato Si’ Pledge, which has been warmly embraced by the Church. Pope Francis himself encouraged the faithful to sign the pledge. At its official unveiling in Manila, the pledge was endorsed by Cardinal Tagle (watch his great video message), who is the archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationalis, and by scores of Church leaders, helping it spread to six continents. Please see this blog post for a full overview.

Pope Francis encouraging the faithful to sign the Laudato Si’ Pledge

2. Invigorating the Season of Creation

GCCM successfully coordinated the biggest and most visible Season of Creation to date, in collaboration with its ecumenical partners. Over 500 events on six continents engaged more than 20,000 people in prayers and actions to protect our common home. From a nun-led prayer service at a clean energy facility in the heart of coal country in the United States to a pastor-led street cleanup in a village in Uganda, Christians demonstrated that creation care has an important place in the practice of our faith. Webinars with Bill McKibben, Fr. Richard Rohr, and global faith leaders touched the hearts of the faithful. 70+ news articles around the world shared the word with the wider community. The Season of Creation reveals the power of a united Church, and it is quickly becoming a regular and much-anticipated event in parochial calendars. See blog post of this year’s activities for a full overview.

Season of Creation in review

3. Facilitating Massive Divestment from the Fossil Fuel Industry

GCCM facilitated two history-making announcements of divestment from fossil fuels. A total of 49 Catholic institutions worldwide announced that they were stepping away from dirty energy. This group included the first-ever divestment by a Catholic bishops’ conference, one of the first divestments by a Catholic bank, and divestment by the major institutions of Assisi. To date, more than 200 articles about these historic Catholic divestments have been published (ranging from CNN, Reuters and Le Monde to Catholic News Service to Breitbart). A single article in the Guardian was shared over 85k times on social media, including by high-profile figures with audiences in the millions, such as Bill McKibben, Bernie Sanders, Mark Ruffalo, and a host of European policy-makers. This outcome was possible because of an intense outreach effort, which included a high-level “Laudato Si Investing” conference, talks for religious orders, and webinars. The Catholic divestment hub provides helpful information for financial officers and decision-makers, including the first-ever Catholic divestment toolkit, produced as a collaboration between GCCM and Trocaire.

Headlines breaking the historic divestment news.

4. Standing up to Harmful Climate Policies in the United States

Standing up to policies that hurt creation and our vulnerable sisters and brothers is important. GCCM collaborated in several milestone activities. In collaboration with FAN and other US partners, we mobilized a sizable and colorful Catholic contingent at the People’s Climate March, and followed this by collecting signatures on a petition to President Trump. As the situation in the U.S. worsened, GCCM sounded a strong moral voice for creation. We called on the president to #ReadLaudatoSi via his favorite medium, Twitter. After Trump announced an intended withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, we released a statement and coordinated a video interview in front of Trump Tower between between Fr. James Martin of America Magazine and Cardinal Ribat. GCCM responded rapidly as developments of US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement emerged.

Catholic groups mobilized for the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

5. Lifting our Voice for Climate Justice

GCCM brought Catholic teaching about justice to public witness on climate change. Executive Director Tomás Insua joined Christiana Figueres and other leaders in co-signing an important article in Nature calling on G20 leaders to take bold action ahead of the 2020 climate turning point. Because media work is critical to the worldwide conversation on climate, we also facilitated the publication of 350+ news articles and 6 high-profile op-eds. Outside the media sphere, GCCM played a central role in facilitating Catholic leadership for the Paris climate pact by coordinating and speaking at Catholic events at the COP23 summit, representing Catholic voices in the Interfaith COP23 Climate Statement, and working as the lead Catholic partner for a new Interfaith Initiative on Sustainable Lifestyles coordinated by GreenFaith. Our collaborative efforts leveraged the power of united voices: GCCM supported efforts to call for an immediate shift to renewable energy, such as the Big Shift campaign advocating change in World Bank investments and the Lofoten Declaration calling for no new exploitation of fossil fuels. We also joined an amicus brief for Our Children’s Trust, the high-profile lawsuit from a group of 20 U.S. children to the U.S. federal government based on its harmful climate policies, and we signed a Charter of Values and Actions delivered by Bishop Zuppi to the G7 Ministers of the Environment gathered in Italy.

Delivering interfaith statement to negotiators at COP24 (photo: Sean Hawkey/WCC)

6. Celebrating #Mercy2Earth Weekend

In 2017, Earth Day immediately preceded Mercy Sunday, the day declared by Pope Francis as a celebration of God’s mercy and our own capacity for love. To further Pope Francis’ prayer that we “convey mercy throughout our common home,” GCCM organized 200+ events around the world that engaged thousands of people. From planting 3,000 trees in Pakistan to touching 8,000 worshippers in Nigeria to enacting 40 days of mercy to Earth in Taiwan, Catholic people embodied the heart of Pope Francis’ vision. See a full overview in this blog post.

Planting trees in Pakistan for Mercy2Earth weekend

7. Training Laudato Si’ Animators Across Continents

Local conversations make the abstract issue of climate change tangible. In 2017 we trained 460 Laudato Si’ Animators from 60 countries to bring change to their communities. Animators learned the science of climate change, the Laudato Si message, and grassroots organizing, using an online platform to facilitate discussions and quizzes on the material. From our training group, nearly half went on to complete the capstone project hosting an event in their parishes or communities. Others have scheduled events for the spring, or begun the process of starting a green team in their home parish or a chapter in their town. We also translated our Eco-Parish Guide into new languages to help steer parishes’ sustainability projects. The events hosted by the Animators reached over 27,000 people, and Animators are now empowered to continue advancing Laudato Si’ action at a local level across continents.

Engaging the community in Buenos Aires

8. Sharing Laudato Si’ with the World

Sharing the Laudato Si’ message with the Catholic family is a big priority for GCCM. To empower robust local efforts on Laudato Si’, we increased the size and strength of our network, growing the number of member organizations to 650 and sharing a Laudato Si’ newsletter. Complementing in-depth work on the local level, we facilitated massive awareness campaigns. During the Luján Pilgrimage in Argentina, approximately 1.5 million pilgrims passed through a Laudato Si’ Station. During Pope Francis’ trip to Colombia, 23,000 environmental pilgrim’s guides were distributed in the Pope’s mass with young people. The guides were made by Domus Omnia Consulting in accordance with the agreement signed with the MCMC. Also, we thank VIDERE design, CAR Regional Autonomous Corporation, Secretary of the Environment of Bogota SDA for their contribution and the authorization of the Archdiocese of Bogota. GCCM partnered with all of the Rome-based Pontifical Universities to produce a joint diploma on Laudato Si, with GCCM staff leading parts of the program, in what promises to be transformative initiative that could be expanded to Catholic universities around the globe.

Engaging 1.5 million pilgrims during the Luján Pilgrimage

9. Praying with Laudato Si’

GCCM is rooted in the Holy Spirit. Helping the faithful reflect and pray is core to our work. For Lent, we coordinated a worldwide fast for climate on World Water Day. For All Saints and All Souls we created a beautiful prayer resource to honor eco-martyrs and lost species. For COP23, the next stage in the Paris climate talks, we collected prayers from the front lines of climate change, one for each day of the talks. For Advent, we developed a comprehensive resource kit to reflect on and act for creation during the season.

10. Strengthening the Foundations

This was a critical year to consolidate the growth of our young movement. We opened the year with a very fruitful and important Strategic Planning meeting in Assisi, in which our Steering Committee, Board of Directors and Secretariat came together in Assisi to revisit our mission and define our 2017–2020 Strategic Plan. The icing on the cake was our meeting with Pope Francis! And throughout the year we continued to strengthen GCCM’s capacity by incorporating as a standalone legal entity (after the very generous fiscal sponsorship support from FAN) while expanding our international secretariat from 4 staff in January to 10 staff in December.

GCCM steering committee, board and secretariat staff in Assisi strategic planning meeting.

As Pope Francis tells us, we are called to “hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” We Catholics bring two unique strengths to the challenges that face us: our unity and our faith.

We at Global Catholic Climate Movement are thankful for the astonishing commitment and progress enacted by the faithful in 2017. We pray that with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, our care for creation and vulnerable people will continue to grow.