Pope Francis to champion climate change among Catholics & other religious faithful in 2015

by Will Hall, |
REUTERS/China Daily

VATICAN CITY (Christian Examiner) -- Pope Francis told the U.N. Climate Change Conference "the time to find global solutions is running out" and that an "effective fight against global warming will only be possible through a collective response." He made the remarks in a November letter to the conference held in Lima, Peru, in December. 

Church officials now suggest the pope will attempt to energize the world's faithful to fight climate change with a 2015 encyclical calling the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to action and a meeting of other religions' leaders to convince them to influence their adherents to also fight climate change.

Pope Francis waves from the window of the Apostolic Palace in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican December 28, 2014. | REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

The idea of a forthcoming edict on climate change was floated in November by Graham Gordon, head of public policy at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, or CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

"We know the Pope is planning an encyclical in 2015 on ecology and the environment, which is likely to be very significant for international discussions on climate change, and the inclusion of those themes in his speech today gave an indication of their importance to the Pope in the coming year," Gordon said.

Gordon made his remarks following the pope's speech to the European Parliament on Nov. 25.

But the idea of a push by Pope Francis to engage other religions' leaders to influence their adherents on the matter of climate change was offered Dec. 27 by Bishop Marcelo Soronda, chancellor of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, according to The Guardian.

"Our academics supported the pope's initiative to influence next year's crucial decisions," Soronda told CAFOD. "The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion."

But Catholic conservatives likely will assert influence on the discussion as well.

Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, has shared public concerns "that those predicting dangerous and increasing anthropogenic global warming were overstating their case."

In a London lecture in 2011, Pell said he was speaking out about the role of carbon dioxide in the climate, "because in the past the Church had made a fool of herself on a number of occasions."

Pell said he was speaking out "to avoid having too many Christian leaders repeating these mistakes and to provide some balance to ecclesiastical offerings."

Traditional evangelicals likely will voice caution if not outright objections to the pope's initiative if it is shaped along the same lines as the several U.N. climate change goals.

Already, Calvin Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, has urged the pope to "back off," according to The Guardian. "The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science," he said. "It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect."

The Cornwall Alliance champions the position that global temperature cycles vary with cycles in the sun's energy output, solar magnetic winds and ocean currents, and are not a factor of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Likewise, Beisner argues that the biblical position on climate change is to acknowledge these systems in terms of the designed provision to sustain the existence of man.

"God has said that all of the various cycles on which life depends are going to be sustained by his providential care from now until God ends heaven and Earth themselves in the last judgment," he wrote on desmogblog.com. "Now that too, I think, is contrary to fears that man-made climate change could bring an end to the various different climate cycles on which we depend and on which other forms of life depend for our thriving."

Pope Francis has confirmed he will travel to the United States in the fall for the World Meeting of Families, a conference held every three years to celebrate the importance of family.

Others have speculated he also will visit Washington, D.C. and New York as part of his U.S. travels, but Vatican officials have not released any information on other parts of his itinerary.