Pope Francis and Climate Change

By Phoebe Myers

On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis took a serious position on global warming and accompanying environmental issues. Unlike many members of the Catholic Church, the Pope states that the issue of global warming is indeed real and caused by humans.

The Pope released his ideas in an encyclical, or a letter sent from St. Peter’s Square addressed to over the 1 billion Catholics worldwide. Encyclicals are one of the Church’s most authoritative teaching documents, and the Pope aimed this one at not only Catholics but “every person living on this planet.”

The encyclical, titled “Laudato Si”, an Italian phrase meaning “Praise Be To You” appears in a song written by St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology. The document is a harsh analysis of all the downfalls of modern life, but a large section is devoted solely to environmental issues.

The encyclical is 184 pages long. Some critics argue that while the Pope laments the environmental issues brought about by humans, he does not provide many concrete ideas for solutions.

Still, it is quite unusual for a religious figurehead to align with science these days, and Pope Francis seems extremely serious in his views.

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”

He took his stance even further in his address to Congress on September 24, during his visit to the U.S. This was the first ever address to Congress by any pope, and he again delivered his rallying cry for environmental issue solutions.

Many conservative Catholics and Christians have met Pope Francis with criticism and anger for environmental position. In fact, a week before the Congressional address, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he would boycott the speech because of the Pope’s climate change positions.

“If the pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous,” Gosar said.

It will be interesting to see how the Pope’s actions will affect the relationship between religion and the issue of global warming. Will there be a shift towards more overlap between religious beliefs and scientific evidence? Only time will tell.

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