On Saturday, November 18, 2023, a webinar on Pope Francis’ the Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum was organized by the JPIC OFM General Office and drew participants from all over the world. This webinar was translated into three languages: English, Italian and Spanish. The moderator was Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco OFM, director of the General Office of the JPIC OFM.
The first speaker was Br. Andrea Bizzozero OFM, professor at the Antonianum University of Rome, who began by referring to the name and recipients of the Apostolic Exhortation. The Pope himself affirms that Laudate Deum is an expression of St Francis of Assisi. From his life experience in the world with its beauty and its contradictions, the saint of Assisi always felt invited to praise God. The recipients of this praise are all men and women of good will who are filled with the desire to do good for humanity. After a brief presentation of the chapters, Br. Andrea focussed on what the document calls the technocratic paradigm. On the one hand, this paradigm responds to the human desire for progress. On the other hand, it can be a weapon that prompts people to renounce their critical capacity and delegate development decisions to technicians. The Pope suggests, the Franciscan professor assures, that these technicians are very often the ones who pour their forces into the principle of maximum consumption without recognizing the supreme good for the person and the environment. Hence the word hope is concretized in educational investments, because there will be no lasting changes without cultural changes, concluded the Italian friar.
For his part, Br. Jaime Campos, former director of JPIC OFM, invited to thank Pope Francis for the new document. He then mentioned a historical allusion to the Franciscans who for decades have been committed to ecology, as witnessed in the document of the 1988, Plenary Council in India. He also highlighted those, even within the Church itself, who deny the signs of climate change. This, according to the Chilean friar, should not discourage us, but rather encourage us to “continue insisting on personal and community awareness of the climate crisis – urgency.” Likewise, Br. Jaime appealed to substantial changes in our lifestyle. At the end of his intervention, he recalled that Franciscan spirituality can help bring about the changes we need. “Knowing ourselves as minors and recognizing the place of God in history and in our own lives. Recognizing ourselves as creatures among others and not gods allows us to accept the invitation to ‘Praise God’” he noted.
Finally, Br. Joseph Rozansky OFM, emphasised on the concerns and hopes of Pope Francis in Laudate Deum. In his opinion, the Pope is not asking for a merely theoretical reflection on what is going on. Rather, it is a call on a personal level that involves an examination of conscience about lifestyle. The American friar stated that many have challenged themselves on a personal level and even the Pope praised these efforts, but alone is not enough to achieve the esential and necessary change. It is time for greater participation in the socio-political dimension. For example, involvement in popular movements, or join in Franciscan organizations such as Franciscans International that works in the United Nations. The speaker concluded his reflection by inviting us to “Three months after our first examination of conscience, let us commit to a second examination to see if we have contacted or joined a group involved in the political sphere.”
The webinar continued with a question and answer session related to the background, context and content of Laudate Deum. The moderator then summarized that many inspirations can be drawn from Laudate Deum because of its strong message about how humans should behave towards the Earth.
Br. Taucen Girsang,
Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco