On October 4, 2023, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the pope issued an apostolic exhortation devoted to the climate crisis. The document’s title comes from its opening two words in Latin, a quotation from il poverello: “Laudate Deum for all his creatures.”
The saint, who seems to have had difficulty writing a rule to guide religious life, liked to sing with words and gestures to express the joy of living together with other creatures, his sisters. Hence the opening words, providing a perspective from which to read this document of the magisterium of the present pope. The mysticism of St. Francis is fundamental for a correct interpretation of the text.
In this sense, as we proceed in reading the document, it is important not to lose sight of the centrality of God, whom we praise for his creatures. Otherwise, we could easily come to think that the pope is adhering to whatever ideology is fashionable today, devised by some secular environmental group advocating the protection of nature as against human beings and the progress of their societies.
Whether they are long or short, whether they are found at the beginning or at the end of the exhortation, the biblical references are fundamental to a correct interpretation of the document. From these links, it is easy to see that the pope is not speaking as the head of some NGO, but as a true spiritual leader, especially when he lays the foundation for what is characteristic of an ecology which is explicitly “Christian.”