Pope Francis issued a major encyclical on the environment Thursday, called “Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home.”
In the first papal document dedicated to the environment, the pontiff plunged the Catholic Church into political controversy over climate change, squarely backing scientists who say it is mostly man-made.
In the encyclical, Francis calls for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture and an end to an “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good.
The most controversial papal pronouncement in half a century has already won him the wrath of conservatives, including several U.S. Republican presidential candidates who have scolded Francis for delving into science and politics.
Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas presented the document at a Vatican news conference.
“Those who read the encyclical will be impressed by the depth and the thoroughness with which the ecological problem is treated and its seriousness is brought out together with concrete suggestions and proposals on how to act in order to face its consequences,” he said.
“The proper relationship between humanity and the earth or its natural environment has been broken with the fall both outwardly and within us and this rapture constitutes what we call sin,” Zizioulas added.
The papal document is being seen as a clarion call to the 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church. It is also seen as the most controversial papal document since Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae upholding the Church’s ban on contraception, and is expected to spur the world’s Catholics to lobby policy makers on ecology issues and climate change.
Vatican specialists agreed on Thursday the papal encyclical on the environment had given the world insight into the pontificate of Pope Francis.
The pontiff demanded swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
“This is big for the Pope,” said Senior Communications Adviser with the Vatican’s Secretariat of State Greg Burke. “The Pope mentioned this right after his election, that taking care of our common home and I think it’s really very related to a spiritual theme of his as well, which is ‘you have to consume less and buy less, we have to really re-think our lifestyles’ that is a key theme of the Pope’s.”
“As Christians especially, you have to think about what kind of life you want to live and what material things mean to you,” he said.
The release of the encyclical is timed to precede September addresses to the United Nations and the U.S. Congress on sustainable development, and comes before November’s U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.
“I think he’s very worried about it, because as I say, he doesn’t see climate change as just … he doesn’t see climate change as just a matter of environmental questions of clean drinking water or reducing biodiversity,” explained Irish Times correspondent Paddy Agnew.
“He doesn’t see it in those terms, he sees climate change as something, which is related, as an economic problem, as related to an unequal distribution of the world’s wealth,” he said, adding: “He’s very concerned about the poor and he feels that the negative impact of climate change is felt most clearly by the poorest people on the earth. He feels that this should be a Catholic Church of the poor, and for the poor, and in that sense this encyclical is a perfect representation of what his pontificate is all about,” Agnew said.
Reuters wire reports