The head of the Roman Catholic Church will use his influence to remind the people to become the “”stewards of creation” they were created to be in an encyclical on Thursday.
Pope Francis seeks to incite the 1.2 billion Catholics to action to oblige local lawmakers to write more environment-conscious policies and spearhead ecology-protecting programs. In his two years as pope, he has already proven his influence, brokering on behalf of the Vatican for the resumption of the US- Cuba diplomatic ties.
Pope Francis also revealed his plan of making this letter, called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” to be among the topics for the debate at a major U.N. summit on climate change that will take place later this year.
With ten thousand people as his audience, the charismatic pope spoke at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday about the encyclical, saying that it was “addressed to everyone”. Pope Francis is hoping his letter will bring “renewed attention to situations of environmental degradation and to recovery” and create a “greater responsibility for the common home that God has entrusted to us”.
Those who are privy to the contents of the encyclical say it will highlight the impact of climate change on the poor and discuss inequalities of wealth — a topic which the first Latin American pope ( who comes from a poor country) holds dear to his heart -– as well as population issues. It will also move the highly developed nations to “re-examine their ‘throw-away’ lifestyles.”
Environmental activists are excited about the contents of the letter as they hope to quote the pope in their campaigns for international agreements to curb global warming. Those knowledgeable about the document do acknowledge that the letter stresses a scientific truth that global warming is largely a result of selfish and thoughtless human activities however it does not completely reflect the stand of neither “climate change activists nor sceptics.” This letter is expected to influence Latin-American votes at the summit.
Politicians acknowledge the influence religion has in the environmental debate. However, the pope received criticisms from “anxious conservatives and climate change sceptics”, coming mostly from the United for mixing science with religion.
Rick Santorum, U.S. Republican presidential candidate who is both a Catholic and climate change sceptic, believes the Church would be “better off leaving science to the scientists”.
Another of Pope Francis’s basher, Maureen Mullarkey, a commentator for the conservative U.S. website First Things, published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life, described the pope as “an ideologue and a meddlesome egoist” who was “sacralizing politics and bending theology to premature, intemperate policy endorsements (on climate change).”
On the other hand, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, host of the make-or break summit in Paris slated on Nov. 30-Dec 11 defends the pope: “If you are concerned about God, a creator and his creation, then you have to be concerned that his creation is not destroyed.”
After the encyclical is made public on Thursday, the Vatican will hold a closed door briefing for ambassadors from 170 countries. An ambassador said: “I have strict orders, as do many of my colleagues, to send it instantly to my government.”
In one of his interviews in January, Pope Francis insinuated to reporters the content of his encyclical: “I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he said. “I think man has gone too far … thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this.”
In April, at a conference in Vatican, the Holy See collaborated with the United Nations and agreed on certain terms regarding sceptics who deny that human activities affect global weather patterns.
In the final statement of the conference which was attended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 60 scientists, religious leaders and diplomats it was emphasized that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality ….”
A papal encyclical is part of a pope’s “ordinary magisterium” or authority that lays down the authentic teachings of the Church.
“He doesn’t thereby canonise or dogmatise a scientific theory, which by its very nature is subject to falsification and revision,” explains John Cavadini, professor of theology and director of the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame in the United States. “But it is within the pope’s competence and authority to call attention to our moral responsibilities and duties in the face of the best scientific theory out there, especially when the consequences of not doing so are serious or even drastic, and where silence could be interpreted as scandalous,” he added.
It must be noted that the pope took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology. The title of the encyclical comes from one of the saint’s prayers which glorifies nature.