Today marks the first-ever Word Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, established by Pope Francis to offer Catholics the “opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation.” This comes in the wake of the pope’s recent encyclical on climate change, the first-ever papal encyclical dedicated to the environment. At every turn, Francis is bolstering the moral argument for climate action.
In his encyclical, Francis argues for an “integral ecology” that transcends “the language of mathematics and biology.” John Carr, Director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, explained that the pope “is calling for an ecological conversion, sacrifice for the future and the common good.” Added Carr, “Pope Francis is explicitly saying that this should be added in a formal way to the church’s social teaching.”
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy believes the pope’s encyclical is “a game changer.” Francis, she explained, has found the key to communicating about climate change: it’s about people, not polar bears. Said McCarthy, “I love [polar bears], but I love my children more. I love the thousands of people we expect to die prematurely because of public health impacts from climate change.”
Already, the pope’s encyclical has spurred an outpouring of support from religious leaders in the United States. Representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops visited Congress to proselytize on climate. A group of Roman Catholic bishops in Iowa urged Republican presidential contenders to focus on the environment. And, seizing the moment, the Episcopal Church announced it would divest from fossil fuels. Later this month, Francis will become the first pope to address a joint session of Congress, an uncomfortable proposition for many on Capitol Hill.
By invigorating the moral cause for climate action, Francis has put global warming deniers on the defensive. He has shown that you don’t need to be a scientist to oppose human suffering and the degradation of the earth. Said John Boehner, a devout Catholic,”I’m not about to get myself into an argument with the pope.” Jeb Bush, also a climate skeptic, remarked, “I’m going to read what he says, of course. I’m a Catholic and try to follow the teachings of the church.”