Heeding Pope Francis’ Call: A Care for Our Common Home

01 December 2021

At the end of 2020, California wildfires displaced more than 53,000 from their homes. In 2018, it was estimated by the Urban Institute that 1.2 million Americans were displaced due to climate-related reasons. 

That same year, a World Bank study projected that by 2050 143 million people would be also displaced globally by a variety of climate-related events.

If we merely look back to the past 100 years — from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s through Hurricane Katrina in the mid-2000s— the United States has grappled, yet not fully reckoned, with the vast consequences of extreme weather and climate change at home. 

With resources disproportionately used by the United States and other wealthy countries, over consumption and inaction continue to be a problem, even as the Biden Administration rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement this past February. In addition, the denial of scientific evidence backing climate change has quickly become one of the biggest threats we face as we work to find a common solution. 

As Catholics, the call to “care for our common home” is more relevant than ever before.

Most recently, Pope Francis, an avid advocate of climate action amongst the religious community, has called upon all Catholics to take drastic action this past September — the Season of Creation, stating that the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are becoming increasingly serious and alarming.” 

In his most recent call, he joined two other Christian leaders in an urgent, joint statement pleading for people of all faiths to take action to the devastating consequences of climate change. 

He has further pushed all to turn towards “lifestyles that are simpler and more respectful of the environment.” 

As we advocate for internally displaced people outside of the U.S., we must be mindful of how our actions towards our shared environment may have disrupted lives and livelihoods across the United States. Susan Martin, JRS/USA board member and long-time refugee advocate states correctly that the U.S. should lead by example and indeed we must. 

However, to truly lead abroad, the US must recognize and care for the over one million internally displaced Americans.  

We must first be willing to acknowledge whether we’re doing our part and if not, how could we be doing better? 

While the answer is not specifically clear for all, the Catholic community has a monumental opportunity to look inward and reflect on social teachings, specifically within Laudato Sì:

“There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years,” writes Pope Francis, “the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

During this Season of Creation, we ask that you channel Laudato Sì, as you internally reflect on the lifestyle changes you can make to better care for one another.