St. Francis Patron of Ecologists: Fortieth Anniversary Celebration

Forty years have passed since St. John Paul II declared St. Francis of Assisi patron of ecologists in the Bull Inter Sanctos of 29 November 1979.

Gradually a process of greater awareness of the care of creation has been developing in the Church. Since the 1980s, the Order has been reflecting, discerning and promoting actions that favour an awareness of the environmental crisis that we face these days. During his pontificate, St. John Paul II introduced the reflection on “the ecological question” in the Church, presenting St. Francis of Assisi as a model.

During the present pontificate of Pope Francis, once again the focus has been on the Saint of Assisi, being offered as a model of an authentically integral life, where the concern for creation also touches social issues. In the encyclical Laudato si,’ we repeatedly find the figure of St. Francis, through his lifestyle and perfect relationship with all creation. Let us remember that the Canticle of the Creatures gives the name to this encyclical.

In celebrating the 40th anniversary of St. Francis, patron of ecologists, the JPIC Office of the Order wanted to commemorate this date in a symbolic place for Franciscan spirituality: St. Damian’s Church in Assisi. In this small church on the outskirts of Assisi, St. Francis confronts his vocation with Christ and begins to do penance. In this same place, two years before his death, he composes the Canticle of Creatures where he synthesizes his strong human commitment to all creation to praise God.

Together with the World Catholic Climate Movement, we organized an act of prayer and reflection on the canticle of creatures in St. Damian. We were accompanied by about one hundred young people from Assisi, as well as the mayor of Assisi, Stefania Proietti, Bishop Domenico Sorrentino, Bishop of Assisi, P. Josh Kureethadam, S.D.B. of the Commission for Creation of the Dicastery for integral human development, the brothers of the fraternity of San Damiano (Novitiate) and the JPIC animators of the Italian Conference (COMPI). After the prayer, we marched to the main square of Assisi to join the millions of young people around the world who demand new policies in the face of the climate crisis. The “climate strike” march ended in front of the city hall of Assisi, where the young people shouted: “Laudato si”! For an integral ecology, live Laudato si’.