When Pope Francis issued the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ on May 24, 2015, he advanced Catholic social teaching and attracted worldwide attention with a letter addressed to Catholics and to people of the world.
Unusually for a papal document, Laudato Si’ received extensive coverage in the news media and in the academic world. Few Church documents gain the attention of those outside the religious press; even “newspapers of record” offer little beyond notice of publication. Laudato Si’ proved different. Its topic attracted wide interest, and the Vatican’s news and information office increased news coverage by a press conference. The timing – just a few months before the Paris Climate Conference – also helped. Contentious public debate about climate change helped create a worldwide interest in the document, reinforced by Pope Francis’ personal popularity.
This year many Jesuit schools and universities in the United States have held workshops and seminars on the enduring impact of the encyclical. Not surprisingly, both the encyclical’s content and its reception have also attracted the attention of communication researchers. In the spirit of these efforts, this essay examines studies of Laudato Si’ as an instance of environmental communication; its coverage in the press; various communication analyses of the encyclical (especially rhetorical analysis); different communication responses to the encyclical in the media, education, dialogue and social communication fields; and finally the impact of the encyclical and its application to communication practices such as strategic communication and marketing.