WASHINGTON, D.C., December 30, 2014 (AMG) — Pope Francis is taking a stand. After a planned March visit to Tacloban, the Philippine city destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in 2012, the Pope will issue an encyclical to 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 Catholic priests around the world.
The encyclical will be the first comprehensive set of Vatican teachings on climate change – which will also include a message to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, an address to the UN General Assembly and a summit of major world religious leaders – all aimed at influencing the 2015 UN climate meetings in Paris.
The Pope has been vocal about the need to address climate change and protect the environment, saying “the monopolising of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water and inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth.” The Pope went further to say that climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation were already showing their devastating effects in the “great cataclysms” witnessed around the world.
Many bishops share the Pope’s concern with the lack of global action on climate change, expressing their frustration at the Lima climate meeting last month. However, many Catholics disagree with his stance on environmental issues. In particular, the powerful US evangelical movement is expected to come out against Francis’ stance.
Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, has declared the US environmental movement to be un-biblical. “The Pope should back off. The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles, but has been misled on the science”, Beisner said.
Despite the vocal opposition, recent polling suggests that a majority of US Catholics do, in fact, care about climate change. The majority of all Catholics polled agree that addressing climate change now will help prevent economic disasters in the future. Hispanic Catholics in particular responded that climate change is a “major problem” or a “crisis,” and that their congregation has sponsored climate change-related activities.
Earlier this month, the Pope showed himself to be a key actor in global diplomacy, following a revelation from the White House that he was instrumental in facilitating talks that eventually led to the re-establishment of bilateral ties between Cuba and the United States.
While the Pope’s leadership on climate change may influence how religious leaders approach environmental problems, the Pontiff now hopes his words will influence how political leaders around the world address climate change, too.
Image credit: Catholic Church England & Wales