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“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, we celebrate 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 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.” 



Sustainability and Catholic Higher Education: A Toolkit for Mission Integration


Five for Five

In 2020, Catholic Climate Covenant is asking 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 spring events have been altered in light of the spread of COVID-19, but Catholic colleges and universities may still be able to use their creativity to highlight the importance of Pope Francis's landmark letter:

  1. On April 22, we 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.”
  2. This fall, September 1 to October 4 is the period Pope Francis refers to as the "Season of Creation." Should circumstances permit, we’re asking every ACCU member institution to plant five trees sometime during that period, either on your campus or in your local community in honor of Laudato Si’s fifth anniversary. Please use your public relations staff to make your actions broadly known. Consider incorporating a moment of prayer into the planting, as well as some quotation from Laudato Si’ itself.  No doubt many institutions will also see this as an ideal prompt for educational programming on the issue.  

Our campaign’s name is simple:  FIVE TREES for FIVE YEARS of LAUDATO SI’


If you are willing and able to join this campaign, please let our office know about the activities on your campus so that we can include them as we promote our efforts to national media.  We can’t wait to raise the national voice of Catholic higher education on this issue that is central to humanity’s survival.

Please join us.  We look forward to working with you!


Featured article:

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.