Ayiro. Africa

Meeting the Pope

Meeting the Pope – A reflective gaze on Laudato Si: Insights from Prof. Laban Ayiro’s Visit to Rome

By Dr. Lydia Radoli-Daystar University School of Communication

In the month of November 2021, Prof Laban Ayiro made a maiden trip to Rome, that culminated with an encounter with Pope Francis. An occurrence he calls prophetic.

In a rare audience, the celebrated Kenyan Professor and Vice Chancellor of Daystar University had a brief but profound interaction with the Pope at St. Peters Square in the Vatican on 3rd November 2021.

 The encounter happened during the ceremonial Wednesday masses, where the Pope meets different delegations and pilgrims. In the photograph captured during the occasion, Prof. Ayiro gazes at the Pontiff in humility and great respect.

The amiable Pope Francis is seen smiling, the eye contact and brief conversation speaks of volumes of a connection that Prof. Ayiro had desired 10 months earlier.

Quoted in the Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACIA), Prof. Ayiro narrated that he developed a desire to meet Pope Francis when he read of his approach to the conservation of the earth in his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’.

 The meeting came six years after the much-lauded encyclical letter Laudato Si – meaning: “Praise be to you”, extolling adoration on the creation of God, and echoing the urgency to bring to attention the man-made destruction rendered to the environment and humanity.

Some authors have called the encyclical letter: “A cry for mother earth and all her ‘children” – the ecosystems (Mutunga, 2021).

In Pope Francis vision, earth is a common home in which humans interact with nature in perfect harmony, freely nourishing from the God given gifts, the sun, the air, the trees, the animals.

In his thoughts, Pope Francis echoes his name’s sake – Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of the environment and animals, who so devoted in their care as worship and love for God. Despite the attention the document generated, environmental degradation contributing to adverse climate change effects continues unabated.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2022), global emissions in 2030 will still be roughly twice as high as needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5 C). It is hoped that the Conference of Parties on biodiversity-COP15 and the 27th Session – COP27 on “effecting radical turning points on climate change” will revamp international climate efforts.

COP27 is set to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 8-10th November 2022, after it stalled due to COVID-19 related limitations. The conference in Egypt will be critical in bringing a turn around to address the climate change crisis, abate loss of biodiversity, and pollution

This global perspective offers a re-joinder to Pope Francis central emphasis on seeing the earth as “our common home”, in which humanity and nature interact freely. In the same breath of sustaining a discourse on climate change, during the visit, Prof. Ayiro gave a public lecture in the University of Sophia on environmental protection. He also made an e-learning tour at the University of Rome.