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July 25, 2015

A green light for the Pope’s discussion on climate change

by Eleanor Cook, Online Editor-in-Chief
For years, the Roman Catholic Church has not addressed many hot issues, including climate change. However, on May 24, Pope Francis released an encyclical, or a letter from the pope to all of the Roman Catholic bishops of the world, calling for action to prevent climate change. While this has exposed him to some criticism, his opinion is important for the growth of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis’ actions should be celebrated as an effort that will bring one of the globe’s most massive organizations, as well as millions of people throughout the earth, back onto the world stage.
Since the start of his papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has made numerous statements concerning current and controversial topics. The latest issue is climate change. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Since the start of his papacy in 2013, Pope Francis has made numerous statements concerning current and controversial topics. The latest issue is climate change.

In his encyclical, the Pope pushes for a transformation in particularly Roman Catholics’ attitudes towards climate change. He largely blames the first world’s obsession with consumption, production, and profits for the problems the entire world must now face. He writes, “Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature.” He then advocates sustainable development, writing, “Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment.” Lastly, the Pope calls for a reform of world politics to have more international environmental laws.

While Pope Benedict XVI was sometimes called “the green pope,” Pope Francis has exceeded all actions taken by a pope on the environment. Pope Benedict XVI wrote a theoretical book which had little effect, but Pope Francis has picked up on the importance of shorter, more focused writing. Many politicians have argued that it is not the place for the Pope, the leader of a religious and not a political institution, to be making statements of such political relevance. Former Republican senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum said in a radio interview, “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science. We probably are better off leaving science to the scientists, and focusing on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality.”

What these politicians fail to see, however, is that climate change is an issue that impacts everyone, including the Church. Because of its vast effects on the ecosystem, climate change not only has political and scientific relevance, but also moral relevance. As the head of an institution which guides the morals of millions of people throughout the world, and also as a citizen of the earth himself, the Pope has a responsibility to make morally sound judgments. If climate change is left unattended, then many people will be hurt, due to rising sea levels and intense heatwaves. With his encyclical, Pope Francis has made the Roman Catholic Church more relevant and is making it adapt to the changing times, as any leader must do with his or her institution to help it survive. Whereas one of Pope Benedict XVI’s most notable legacies in the Catholic Church is changing the wording of the Mass to better reflect the original Latin wording, Pope Francis has taken the papacy and turned its objective around. Rather than focusing on reverting to older traditions, Pope Francis has focused on pressing issues to help guide the members of the Catholic Church through the current times.

In a country where the Roman Catholic Church has been dragging politics in a more and more conservative direction, it is refreshing that the Pope has chosen to face rather than skirt some of the most pressing issues. No matter what his opinion, it is important for the Catholic Church, that he share that opinion in order to lead his people through modern issues of the modern world. Rather than criticizing the Pope for taking a stance, people, particularly politicians, should use the recent encyclical to spur thoughtful debate and find a solution to the growing problem of climate change.

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