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"Both global catastrophes, COVID and climate change, prove that we do not have time to wait..."

—Pope Francis, 2021 Earth Day Message


“The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations..."

—Pope Benedict XVI


In 2020, the world celebrated the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si, the encyclical in which Pope Francis drew new attention to the Church's concern for the environment. But did you know that, with this encyclical, the pope was continuing a well-established tradition? The modern Church has long recognized the relationship between humankind and the environment. In 1990, Saint John Paul II issued his landmark World Day of Peace Message: Ecological Responsibility and in 2009 Pope Benedict XVI issued his encyclical Caritas in Veritate

For its part, Catholic higher education has asserted its commitment to care for creation for many years. Ex corde Ecclesiae, the seminal document on Catholic universities issued by Saint John Paul II in 1990, notes in part: “As a natural expression of the Catholic Identity of the University, the university community should give a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activities.”

That's why ACCU has enthusiastically participated in several efforts to answer the Vatican's call to put Pope Francis' ecological encyclical into action. In May 2021, the Laudato Si' Action Platform was announced, with the pope inviting all Catholics on a journey "to create the future we want: a more inclusive, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world."  In response, ACCU is pleased to help build several new resources for Catholic colleges and universities to advance their commitment to the principles of Care for Creation. 


Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration



New Resources

  • Creation Care Communications Guidebook: Created in conjunction with the July 2021 "Laudato Si' and the U.S. Catholic Church" conference, organized by Creighton University and Catholic Climate Covenant, this new guidebook is designed for anyone working in the communications field. See especially chapter 5, on education.  Note that this is a living document and open to your contributions!
  • We’re All Part of God’s Plan(et): A national Laudato Si’ awareness and engagement campaign for U.S. Catholics to care for creation and participate in the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform.



Other Anniversaries of Note

In 2020, Catholic Climate Covenant asked its member organizations to think about how we can put Laudato Si’ back on people’s radar in observance of the document’s fifth anniversary. Plans for events were altered in light of the spread of COVID-19, but Catholic colleges and universities were still able to use their creativity to highlight the importance of Pope Francis's landmark letter:

On April 22, 2020, we also celebrated Earth Day’s 50th anniversary! Dozens of Catholic institutions shared pictures and quotes on social media that highlighted the beauty and fragility of the Earth. Many campuses used the day as an important teaching opportunity by helping their communities see, as St. Francis of Assisi saw, “just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”

If your campus is incorporating the principles of Laudato Si' into its operations or instruction, or marking Earth Day with special events, please let our office know.  We can’t wait to raise the national voice of Catholic higher education on this issue that is central to humanity’s survival.



Featured articles:

Laudato Si Five Years Later
From the summer 2020 edition of Update, the author reflects on the effect of the pope's incyclical — and how much more can be achieved.

Hymns, teach-ins and a horse ride to school: Catholic stories of the first Earth Day
The National Catholic Reporter took a look back at the origins of Earth Day and its connection to Catholic higher education.