The Laduato si’ encyclical of Pope Francis is a milestone document that responds to contemporary world problems and updates the Church’s social teaching in the context of the ecological crisis. It includes what previous popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, known as the Green Pope, have already said. The encyclical begins with a hymn about the creation of St. Francis and ends with a hymn about the creation of Pope Francis. Since the signing of the papal document in 2015, REFA has undertaken activities to promote the message of Laudato si’, that is connected to the Franciscan thought.
Laudato si' in Poland
The Polish presentation of the ecological encyclical of the Holy Father Francis Laudato si’ took place alongside that conducted in the Vatican on 18th of June 2015 at the secretariat of the Polish Bishop’s Conference in Warsaw. A week later, on 25th of June, the encyclical was presented in Krakow in the portrait hall of the City Hall. In both meetings, the content of the document was discussed by Father Stanisław Jaromi, the head of REFA. And since then we have been systematically publishing interviews, comments and polemics regarding the teaching of the Church contained in the encyclical. The biggest activity on this topic was the conference “Church and Science in the Face of Ecological Challenges”, where the Jesuits and Franciscans jointly reflected on this important document of Pope Francis, a Jesuit with a Franciscan heart, and presented its topics in the context of the Church’s teaching and the data of modern science. Scientists from various academic, clerical and secular centres were invited to participate in this task whose outcome was the first academic monograph on the message of Laudato si’ published in 2016.
REFA promoting the Laudato si' message
Among the numerous activities, it is worth noting that since 2015, REFA has been organizing the Season of Creation in Poland. This is an international initiative that accompanies the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and is held in Poland from 15th of September to 15th of October. At this time, there are special services and prayer meetings to protect the created world, for the victims of recent natural disasters and for the project of an integral ecology presented in the encyclical Laudato si’. The eco-encyclical accompanied the celebration of St. Francis’ day, animal blessings and family walks around the urban uncultivated areas, where we encouraged to waste time with children and joyfully explore unusual places in the area. The honorary patron of the action is the Primate of Poland, Archbishop Wojciech Polak.
One of the major international events in which we participated as REFA was the World Youth Day in Krakow in 2016. We coordinated the establishment and organization of the international ecological village of Laudato si’ at the Youth Festival in a city park together with ecologists from Australia, Philippines, Brazil, USA, Kenya, gathered in various Catholic ecological organizations.
Seeing that among many initiatives on the religious map of Poland, there was no meeting place for Catholics involved in ecology and the protection of creation, we created a portal of Christian ecologists called swietostworzenia.pl (the Festival of Creation). The portal presents a Christian voice in the broadly understood ecological issues and its main thematic areas include: the study and popularization of the Church’s teaching on ecological topics, Christian ecological education, shaping the proper image of an ecologist—a Catholic, popularizing the idea of the Season of Creation and a lifestyle respecting social and natural limitations, care for reducing energy consumption in the Church, organic farming and food sovereignty. Our motto is “Many small people in many small towns who do many small things can change the face of the world...”. The portal that started on the Pentecost in 2012 has become an important place of debate and information on Christian ecology.
Awards for father Stanisław Jaromi (REFA)
This initiative was soon noticed and its creator and main editor, Father Stanisław Jaromi, received prestigious awards. In recognition of his work in the ecological movement on the 17th of October 2015 in the auditorium of the Institute of Biology of the University of Natural Sciences and Humanities in Siedlce he received the “Polish Forget-me-Not Medal” established by natural scientists. In addition to the Medal, the laureate received a commemorative diploma with a dedication: “For those who enthusiastically work, clean, study, plant trees, encourage others, can admire, despite bad weather, a leaf trembling in the wind, the smell of nature. For those who never cease in their efforts, and give their heart to Polish Nature”.
In the Warsaw site of the episcopate on the 25th of February 2016, Father Stanisław received the award of Bishop Roman Andrzejewski for 2015 for long and consequent work for ecological education, managing the REFA association, promoting the teaching of the encyclical Laudato si’ and support for traditional and organic farmers.
In turn, on 31st of May 2017 he was awarded the title of the Man of the Year of Polish Ecology. The award ceremony took place in Warsaw during the inauguration of the central celebrations of World Earth Day in Poland. Father Jaromi was awarded in recognition of his longstanding ecological commitment and effort to promote the encyclical Laudato si’ and popularise Christian ecology in Poland.
REFA's ecological books
In 2017, we implemented in Krakow an educational project “Oswajamy przyrodę miasta i okolic” (“Becoming Familiar with the Nature of the City and the Surrounding Area”), bringing closer valuable natural areas and urban wasteland as a meeting place for residents of the city with ecology. In 2018, we were invited to participate in the 11th Gniezno Congress and Camp for Climate, where our team promoted the message of the encyclical Laudato si’ and the Integral Ecology Leaders School. It is also worth mentioning the 2018 publication of a book by Father Jaromi Idea franciszkańska. Wielkie problemy współczesności i nasze małe odpowiedzi (The Franciscan Idea. Great Problems of the Present Day and Our Small Replies), in which the author puts forward the thesis that Franciscan ideas are highly topical in the era of contemporary challenges and that they can provide many tips on how to deal with the socio-ecological crisis.
In 2019, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Francis as the patron of ecologists, another publication entitled has been prepared: Patron ekologów (Patron of Ecologists). The title of one of its chapters is entitled: From the decree of John Paul II from the 29th of November 1979 to Laudato si’. The book recalls the important event when St. Francis became the patron of environmentalists. Since then, the ecological commitment of the Catholic Church has had a strong Franciscan character. The publication also refers to the Laudato si’ encyclical – a social document that shows the ecological dimensions of the Christian vocation.
In 2019, another book was published, written by Father Stanisław Jaromi. Boska Ziemia (The Divine Earth) is a guide to the relationship with creation, which, for the first time, organizes the subject of the Catholic Church’s interaction with the subjects of protection of nature protection, environment, climate and ecology in general. The book provides answers to questions that often arise in discussions about ecology and Christianity. It is a publication about the struggles of people who want to be both good Christians and ecologists.
Every year since the encyclical Laudato si’ was issued, the Catholic Church has held Laudato si’ Week on the anniversary of the signing of this important document. REFA actively participates in these events. On the 5th anniversary of the eco-encyclical of Pope Francis, announced on the 24th of May 2020, REFA invited its friends, supporters and participants of its events to answer 9 questions about the relations between Catholics and ecologists, various threads of integral ecology, and the conditions for greater pro-ecological involvement of the Church in Poland. The reports of the various responses have been issued on the swietostworzenia.pl and included in the book which was published in 2021: Czyńcie Ziemię kochaną! Ekologia integralna w perspektywie franciszkańskiej (Make the Earth Loved! Integral Ecology in a Franciscan Perspective). The publication summarizes all the activities of the Integral Ecology Leaders Schoool in 2020. It includes experts’ articles, and an illustrated history of REFA, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021.
The Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi by REFA
Fifth anniversary of the signing of the Laudato si’ encyclical also marks the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Laudato si’. At this special time, REFA joined in the venture of recording The Canticle of the Creatures of St. Francis of Assisi as a prayer of the modern world in the Earth Day. It was realized in the garden of the Franciscan Friary in Radomsko (on the 31th of March 2021). There was a recitation of the canticle by the youth and the musical group Ichtis singing the song of Brother Francis. The whole event was the Franciscan part of the multimedia marathon #OnePeopleOnePlanet, realized as part of the Earth Day 2021 – other recordings were made in such places as Giza in Egypt, New York, Jerusalem, Aleppo in Syria, Bacau in Romania, Kalongo in Uganda, Atacama desert in Chile, Amazonia, Burkina Faso. This international project accompanied the US Leaders' Climate Summit, and the video was featured on RAI Play TV.