At the Vatican on October 4, 2022, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, a new film premiered, entitled The Letter.
The Letter in the title refers to Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home, Pope Francis’s 2015 papal encyclical which was addressed not only to Catholics around the world but also to all people of good will. Its release in May helped to build momentum for the Paris climate talks that fall that resulted in 196 countries signing onto the landmark agreement on climate change.
Laudato Si’ espouses integral ecology, which involves both care for the earth and care for all people, especially those most vulnerable. The encyclical cites science and various faith traditions to build a framework for fighting climate change and for lifting up those dealing with hunger, poverty, dislocation, water scarcity, and other challenges.
The film’s title has a second meaning, as the first part of the film shows five people around the world receiving a letter from Pope Francis, inviting them to the Vatican to discuss the issues of Laudato Si’ with him. Together, they represent both “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” It is these five people and the communities they represent that form the bulk of the film.
~ Cacique Dadá, an indigenous leader of the Borarí people from the Maró Indigenous Territory of Brazil, representing indigenous communities
~ Arouna Kandé, a climate refugee from Senegal, representing the impoverished
~ Ridhima Pandey, a teen-aged climate justice activist from India, representing young people who are inheriting a world that has been damaged by prior generations
~ Greg Asner and Robin Martin, a married couple from Hawai’i in the United States, who are both marine biologists studying the impacts of climate change on ocean ecosystems, representing the voice of nature
The stories of their native places are stunningly conveyed by director Nicolas Brown and the team of Off The Fence Originals, in conjunction with The Laudato Si’ Movement. I especially appreciated the segments from the Amazonian rain forest and the Pacific marine environments.
I also appreciated the diversity of age, race, gender, country of origin, and faith portrayed in the film. While Pope Francis and the Vatican officials are, of course, Catholic, we see participants who follow other faiths, including Islam and indigenous traditions. It is a true reflection of the encyclical being addressed to “all people of good will.”
In keeping with that diversity, people in the film speak in their native languages with subtitles and narration available in English, French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. There are also subtitles available for the entire film in many other languages. You may watch the film free of charge at the link in the first paragraph of this post or on the YouTube Originals channel. Details about offering a free screening for groups can be found here.
My hope is that many people around the world will view the film and take action on social and environmental justice issues. We are one human family and we must together care for each other and our common home.