The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has called for a cultural revolution to save the planet from environmental ruin. Pope Francis made the statement in the nearly 200-page environmental encyclical released on Thursday.
Encyclicals are some of the most important documents created by popes. They explain the teachings of the church and are guides to Catholic behavior.
The encyclical is called “Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home.” In it, Pope Francis writes of the world’s economic system as one based on the rich exploiting the poor. And, he says, that system has turned the planet into “an immense pile of filth.”
Human activities = Earth's warming
The Pope writes that the science of global warming is clear. He notes many studies show atmospheric warming is the result of gas releases from human activities, for the most part.
Pope Francis criticizes those who claim that global warming is not real or is not the fault of humans. He warns that, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications.” And, he writes, it is one of the “principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
Pope Francis bases his encyclical on the first part of the Bible, Genesis. He says it tells that God created the Earth and its riches for humans to use but also to protect. He writes that now the Earth is, in his words, “protesting for the wrong” that humans are doing to it.
Some possible fixes
He says humans are irresponsible in the use of Earth’s many resources. He says they have understood Genesis incorrectly in thinking dominion over Earth means treating the planet any way they want.
The Roman Catholic Church leader calls for a reduction in fossil fuel use and increased investment in renewable energies. He warns against continuing the “current models of production and consumption.”
The Pope also discusses an ecological debt that the rich of the world owe to the poor. He says the wealthy and powerful create more global warming gasses but the poor are the main sufferers of the effects of climate change. Pope Francis writes that “the masters of power and money” must be taught to “love the common good.”
Support and opposition for the encyclical
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim expressed agreement. He released a statement Thursday that said, "As the effects of climate change worsen…we know that escaping poverty will become even more difficult."
Unlike encyclicals of the past, the Pope says that he is speaking not just to Catholics but to all people on Earth.
Achim Steiner is the chief of the United Nations Environment Program. He says the papal letter "is a clarion call that resonates not only with Catholics, but with all of the Earth's peoples. Science and religion are aligned on this matter: The time to act is now."
The Heartland Institute is a U.S. group promoting free-market solutions to global problems. It says the pope "made a grave mistake by putting his trust and moral authority behind agenda-driven bureaucrats at the United Nations who have been bearing false witness about the causes and consequences of climate change for decades."
What do US Catholics think?
On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released the results of a study about U.S. Catholics and their opinion on climate change and the Pope. The survey found that more than 85 percent of U.S. Catholics feel positively toward Pope Francis. They also share his view that global warming is real.
But the survey showed that American Catholics are divided over the cause of global warming. Only 47 percent of Catholics blame warming on human activity. And 45 percent of all Americans agree with them.
An early version of the encyclical was published Monday by the Italian magazine L’Espresso. It quickly proved to be an in issue for U.S. politicians, especially Republican Catholics.
Former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, is a candidate for the U.S. Republican Party presidential nomination. He is also a devout Catholic. He said Tuesday that religion should center on “making us better humans.” And he said he would not look to the Church to make his governing policies.
However, Mr. Bush has said in the past that his Catholic faith does guide him in policy making.
Another Republican Catholic candidate, Rick Santorum, made a similar statement on a news program in early June. He said he was a big fan of the Pope but that he should leave “science to the scientists.”
In “Laudato Si,” however, the Pope says that religious belief; humanity and the environment are inseparable.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
encyclical – n. an official letter from the Pope to the Roman Catholic bishops
exploit – v. to use (someone or something) in a way that helps you unfairly
dominion – n. the power to rule: control of a country, region, etc
consumption – n. the use of something (such as fuel)
survey – n. an activity in which many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to gather information about what most people do or think about something
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