Pope Francis to issue climate change call to arms for world’s Catholics in measures that will anger Vatican conservatives

There are plenty of Bishops who remain sceptical about the impacts of global warming

Adam Withnall
Sunday 28 December 2014 18:08
Pope Francis addressing the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors on Saturday 15 November 2014
Pope Francis addressing the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors on Saturday 15 November 2014

Pope Francis has declared it his mission to take on climate change in 2015, through a series of speeches, summit appearances and a rare call-to-arms for the world’s Catholics.

According to Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, the chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope wants to have a direct influence on the vital 2015 UN climate conference in Paris, the culmination of decades of negotiations that will help determine the planet’s future.

“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,” Sorondo was quoted as saying in the Observer.

“Just as humanity confronted revolutionary change in the 19th century at the time of industrialisation, today we have changed the natural environment so much,” he told a London meeting of Cafod, the Catholic development agency.

“If current trends continue, the century will witness unprecedented climate change and destruction of the ecosystem with tragic consequences.”

It will not be easy for Francis to convince the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on so divisive a subject. There remain plenty of climate change sceptics in the Vatican’s own ranks – including Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s treasurer, who once claimed “plants would love” a doubling of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Francis has previously spelled his desire to appear at the UN general assembly in New York next year.

And he has now announced a plan to issue a rare “encyclical” to the Church about climate change. A lengthy message, it will be passed down through ranks of Catholicism via its far-flung bishops and priests.

Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Cafod, told the Observer: “The anticipation around Pope Francis’s forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented. We have seen thousands of our supporters commit to making sure their MPs know climate change is affecting the poorest communities.”

The Pope last spoke out on climate change earlier this month, when countries assembled for the UN summit in Lima, Peru.

Then, nations agreed upon a draft document that will form the basis for talks in Paris next year.

Francis addressed his message to Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the Peruvian environment minister, when he said the world can only slow climate change “if we act together and agree”. “The time to find global solutions is running out,” he said.

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