Pope spurs a global movement to reverse climate crisis

Pope Francis holds a toddler's dummy as he meets with attendees during the weekly general audience. PHOTO | AFP

Catholics are not the only people who listen to what Pope Francis has to say. Non-Catholics also respect the man that has so much compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, and the voiceless generally.

But when he chose to speak up about climate change and the threat of climate disaster, he was suddenly deemed ‘political’, biased, and a religious figure who was stepping too far from the boundaries of religion to be taken seriously.

But others understood that Francis was stepping on the toes of those upholding the status quo, who didn’t want their authority threatened or their means of profiteering challenged.

They were not prepared to appreciate the wisdom of the Pope.

In 2016, Pope Francis expressed his distress over Climate Change in his all-important Cyclical on the subject.

But his followers felt the profound importance of his message had not reached all those who could be receptive to his concerns but had not yet had the opportunity to hear what he had to say.

That is when the idea of making a film about his Letter came to light. The movers and shakers who shared that conviction called themselves and the organization they chose to form Laudato Si.

Their project started small, but they decided to create a cadre of activists to carry the Pope’s message around the world.

But before they went out into the world, they were trained to be ‘animators’, a specific brand of activist that was normally (though not necessarily) Catholic, deeply committed to the concept of reversing climate change for the sake of present and future generations.


Pope Francis answers reporters' questions during the flight back to Rome, after his apostolic journey to Bahrain, on November 6, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

An animator is also meant to be an organizer who brings people together to watch the Pope’s film, the one that was finally made by a high-powered team of professional filmmakers entitled ‘The Letter’.

Chris Coutinho is one of those animators. “I decided to screen ‘The Letter’ and invite the three music groups I have had the most interaction with, namely the Nairobi Orchestra, Nairobi Music Society Choir and the Ghetto Classics Orchestra, to come watch,” Christ told BDLife just days before the film’s Nairobi premiere on December 16, at Westgate Cinema.

One hopes the film will be screened again, this time for a wider audience since the quality of the movie-making is first class.

The storyline is intriguing, the cinematography is powerful, yet poetic, and one never had a sense of being preached to or pushed or even politicized as some of the Pope’s most severe critics contend.

Instead, the dramatic impact of Climate Change was effectively illustrated in graphic cinematography that captured the devastating impacts of tornadoes, fires, floods, droughts, landslides, sea level changes, and the creation of millions of so-called ‘climate refugees’, those who have lost their homes, livelihood, and whole communities due to the way climate change and global warming have manifest themselves in that one’s part of the world.

Technically, The Letter is a documentary, but the story is so imaginatively told that the film feels more like a fairy tale in which four individuals from different parts of the world receive a letter.

One is meant to represent the Voice of the poor, one the Voice of Youth, one the Voice of Nature, and the fourth represents the Voice of the Indigenous.

How these four were selected is never told but the arrival of the Pope’s letter of Invitation to the four is a fascinating way of opening the film.

The poor are represented by a Senegalese peasant whose family had farmed successfully for generations, but rising sea levels led to the destruction and then the swallowing up of their land.

He represented all the climate refugees whose numbers are growing by the day, be it due to drought or flood, wildfires or tornadoes.

The second recipient of the Pope’s invitation to come to Rome is a child, a 13-year-old Indian girl activist. The third is an indigenous chief who had dwelled deep inside the Amazon rainforest up until commercial loggers came in and destroyed his homeland.

And the fourth is a couple of marine biologists who study coral reefs and are deeply distressed about the demise of the reefs due to the warming of oceanic waters.

By the time the four meet the Pope, we are already convinced that there is an urgent need to reverse the trends of Nature’s destruction and for mankind to wake up and change their ways as we work together to save Mother Earth for present and future generations.

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