Not one to shy away from controversy, Pope Francis made headlines around the world after a section of his encyclicalÂ leaked a few days early. In it, the PopeÂ calls out to all people on the planet, not just Catholics, to realize that climate change, and the push to save our quickly deteriorating planet, constitute a moral imperative. He also calls for a partnership between scientists and religious leaders, an almost unprecedented shift in perceived doctrine. The move flies in the face of many religious groups, such as the U.S.-based Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, who have claimed that the burning of fossil fuel is a “holy duty.”Â The Pope's statement, full of blunt and ugly truths, is aimed primarily at first-world countries, explaining their duty to pay their social debt to the poor, within their nations and without.
The 180-page documentÂ is allÂ focused on the environment and the reduction (and eventual elimination) of theÂ use of fossil fuels. In it he goes back 50 years, reminding people of the other popes who have called for an effort to protect the environment, starting withÂ Pope Saint John XXIII, and continuing withÂ Saint John Paul II, and even his predecessor,Â Benedict XVI. Each of them warned about the unsustainable population boom that was wrecking havoc on the planet, and tried to rally those with the means to find ways to protect the countries hardest hit by deforestation, pollution, and unrestricted fossil fuel usage. While the message isn't new, the veracity and passion of the encyclical stirred up a great deal of attention.
One of the more surprising results of the early leak of the encyclical was the quick support from other faiths. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the world's Anglicans, brought together a statement of support for the Pope and his mission. The statement was also signed by leaders from Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish leaders from about the world, a shocking move considering the typical schism between science and religion. Spearheading a movement that spans numerous major religions could be the push needed to see major progressÂ towards a healthier planet.
This spectacular move my Pope Francis comes at a time when we are seeing CO2 levels climbing faster than ever. We hit the milestone for global CO2 levels, hitting 400 ppm, which has brought violent changes to weather and ocean patterns. Fossil fuels aren't the only concern for the Pope either. Deforestation, overflowing landfills, and the destruction of environments displacing poorer populations are all mentioned, and are all tangible evidence of human impact on the planet. The controversy is sure to continue swirling in the coming months, which will help keep these concerns at the forefront of public discourse. While some Republicans in Congress are trying to rally against the pontiff, other nations are showing support already. Hopefully they will take up the cause with the Catholic Church to help find a solution in the near future. Until then, a hearty allons-y to Pope Francis!Whizzco