By MARIANNE NACANAYNAY, age 13
In a letter to church leaders called Laudato Si, released June 18, Pope Francis called climate change a global problem that everyone has a responsibility to help solve. It was the first time the environment was mentioned in this kind of letter, called an encyclical. Francis heads the Roman Catholic Church, which is the largest Christian church in the world with approximately 1.2 billion followers.
Laudato Si warns of pollution, rapid population changes and wasteful cities, and acknowledges future threats of a climate change-driven water shortage. It also points out that poor countries without many resources will be the most impacted by climate change.
Furthermore, Laudato Si notes how increased consumption of products is connected to climate change, especially from larger, richer countries. Pope Francis believes rich nations are responsible.
Still, some leaders feel that it’s not the pope’s place to comment on political or environmental topics. “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope,” said Jeb Bush, a conservative Catholic politician.
According to a poll cited in the Washington Post, more than 76 percent of Catholics in the United States don’t believe that climate change is caused by humans or that it’s something to worry about.
Even with opposition, the pope’s words are influencing American Catholic schools, which may soon have the pontiff’s message in their curriculum.
His words are also resonating in predominantly Catholic countries like the Philippines, a country hard hit by extreme weather believed to be caused by climate change. Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle reiterated the pontiff’s words in a letter to Caritas Internationalis, a group of 162 Catholic charities around the world. “Pope Francis reminds us to replace consumption with a sense of sacrifice.”
Encyclical – in the Roman Catholic Church, an encyclical is a letter sent out by the pope to the bishops