Using the summer heat of June, Pope Francis delivered an encyclical, a letter distributed to the Roman Catholic Church’s bishops, concerning global warming and the damage done to the Earth by resources such as fossil fuels, in which the pope referred to the world as
becoming a “pile of filth.”
While it’s typically St. Francis who is connected to ecology in the Catholic faith, Pope Francis himself used his 184-page encyclical to address Catholics around the world to create a discussion on the reality of global warming. This move was a wise one for the pope, as it engages the more than 1 billion Catholics across the world and gets them thinking about their role in climate change.
One immediate positive response is taking place in Catholic colleges here in the U.S. Huffington Post reported on students from schools such as Georgetown, Notre Dame and the University of Dayton campaigning to see their schools divest in fossil fuels. On June 4, Georgetown was the first of these major Catholic schools to take an important step by divesting from mining companies using the resource in energy production.
Georgetown even admitted that it was the pope’s encyclical that sparked conversation on the environment. Seeing schools take initiative is a great sign, but even the pope knows there needs to be massive steps taken if any real global warming prevention is possible.
As reported by CNN, the pope called for more than everyday recycling, as we still need bold political moves and societal sacrifices, both of which he feels may be beyond reality.
Still, the fact the pope tacked these problems in his encyclical, even calling out consumer obsession with technology, serves as a great launching point to inspire and influence the global Catholic population to rethink what they can do to care for the world.
However, not all have received the pope’s message positively.
Steven Mosher of the New York Post attacked the encyclical as being full of fictions and lacking evidence to support the pope’s sweeping statements in his column titled “Do the pope and I live on the same planet?”
Mosher pulled numbers praising the longevity of the human life span and improved drinking water sources, but what critics overlook is that the pope is calling attention to the problems that will arise if precautions are not taken now to avoid irreversible damage from human activity such as pollution.
Religion aside, the pope made valid points and asked for measures to be made by not just Catholics, but the entire global population. Specifically, when the pope asks for changes in “lifestyle, production and consumption,” or to think about the generations to come, there is certainly a message that goes beyond faith.
Being a pope for the poor and for equality, Francis proves again that he has an active agenda of uniting people rather than dividing them. Using his massive influence to get people discussing a real-world problem that impacts humans no matter what class, race or faith is a terrific use of power, and hopefully the pope’s followers will be inspired enough to act on his words in the time to come.
Adam Mathieu is a senior majoring in studio art.