A new climate change film featuring Pope Francis, which was premiered in the Vatican in October, and which has already had over eight million views on YouTube, had its official Irish launch in Áras an Uachtaráin tonight.

President Michael D Higgins, a passionate campaigner on the environment, was present for the Irish launch of The Letter - A Message for our Earth, which is directed by award winning nature director Nicolas Brown.

President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins viewing The Letter - A Message for our Earth at Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday night

It was produced by Off the Fence, who won an Oscar for their documentary, My Octopus Teacher.

The Letter - A Message for our Earth was inspired by the Pope's 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’ in which he critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming and calls all people of the world to take "swift and unified global action."

The encyclical gave rise to the Laudato Si’ Movement, a global network of organisations including Irish member Trócaire, whose mission is to inspire and mobilise the Catholic community to care for our common home and achieve climate and ecological justice.

Brazilian Environmental defender Cacique Dadá, leader of the Novo Lugar community, who has worked to combat illegal logging in the Amazon, pictured with Pope Francisat the world premiere in Rome of The Letter - A Message for our Earth

The film captures the voices of groups not often heard or thought about when it comes to climate policy and action.

It tells the story of five people deeply impacted by climate change but far from the power centres of decision-making as they travel to meet Pope Francis in Rome, and to discover the roots of Laudato Si’ in Assisi.

Their exclusive dialogue with the Pope, included in the film, offers a revealing glimpse into never-before-seen stories and the human drama in the letter.

The screening at Arás an Uachtarain formally kicks off a nationwide campaign of community screenings of The Letter, supported by Trócaire.

Ahead of the screening, President Higgins said Pope Francis has spoken of a 'culture of indifference’ and has challenged us all not to avert our gaze or to turn away from those who suffer on our shared planet.

"As a society, we must regain our resonance with the world - with nature and each other - if we are to have any hope of avoiding the bequeathment to the next generations of a hostile and volatile Planet Earth." the President said.

He added: "This film, The Letter - A Message for our Earth, is based on Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si’ - on care for our common home’ and its contribution to the debate on the importance of connecting ecology, economics, social justice, and ethics is an important one.

"It calls for urgent collective action to address the climate crisis and provide a sustainable future for all lifeforms on our planet."

"We must all have the courage to speak out and work to transform, replace what has brought us to the point of destruction in social and ecological terms, and work collectively for the human alternative that is possible, Pope Francis’ call is for all the life on Mother Earth."

Lorna Gold, Chair of the Laudo Si Movement who features in the film, said: ‘This film really brings home the present reality of climate change and how it is affecting so many in different ways.

"Through telling stories about real people from around the world, the film taps into our deepest humanity. Despite telling hard truths, it motivates us to do act decisively together to build a better future.’

Film producer Nicolas Brown said: "After making The Letter, I now believe that the greatest existential threats we've ever faced as a species - biodiversity loss and climate change - will only be solved once the human race unites behind a cause greater than ourselves, and we respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor all at once. Pope Francis, along with the protagonists in the film, have shown us how that journey can begin."

The film can be viewed free online here, along with details on forthcoming local screenings and further information on how to organise community screenings.