Love Letters to a Dying World

For Pope Francis

For years, he had been sending love letters
to his sisters and brothers on this “suffering
planet” warning about the coming disaster,
greenwashed by climate deniers, “bad actors,”
who have poisoned the land and atmosphere
for the “greatest profit with minimal costs,”
and sacrificed tropical rainforests to sate
their greed, hoping for some future cure.

But after watching the sea nibble the coast
of his homeland, turning cliffs into sand—
the melting of the Russian permafrost–
he called on lovers to hold each other’s hands
in the light of faith, summoning courage despite
the dangers–before the lights go out.


But then came the critics, like a murder
of crows, tearing at the encyclical’s heart—
sophists who called him a “1960s Flower
Child,” whose “assertions were reductionist”;
jurists devoted to Roman Catholic “traditionalist
values” who caught a whiff of Teilhard de Chardin’s
pantheism, which dethroned Man as the ultimate
“King of Creation” over which He had dominion.

And for once, I wished Pope Francis had the power
of Pius IX, who, facing threats to the Papal State,
exiled rivals like Giuseppe Mazzini, the nationalist–
but not to somewhere like France, but among the poor,
whom they emphasize are not the “oppressed,”
to live with outcasts as Saint Francis did and repent.


About the Poem

Last week, Pope Francis released his encyclical, “Laudate Deum,” and the very next day, he faced a wave of critics who challenged his position on environmental stewardship and his plea for unity. Some accused him of oversimplification, while others voiced concerns about a potential shift toward pantheistic ideas, which, in their view, could undermine human dominion over creation—a mindset that has played a significant role in leading us to our current state in the Anthropocene.

About the Author

Geoffrey Philp, a recipient of a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica, is the author of “Archipelagos,” a book of poems about climate change. Philp lives in Miami and is working on a children’s book, “Marsha, the Mangrove Guardian.”

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