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Louisville Archdiocese Awaits Papal Encyclical on Climate Change

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This may be the year the world’s developed nations work out a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to slow climate change. The meeting is scheduled for Paris in December,but before that, Pope Francis is expected to tell the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics that climate change is an issue relevant to their faith.

Pope Francis has indicated he’llissue an encyclical about climate change this spring. An encyclical is an evangelical document that helps Catholics apply their faith to everyday concerns.

Pope Francis isn’t the first pope to make the connections between faith and climate change—Pope Benedict XVI did it in 2011, and previous popes haven't shied away from preaching environmental stewardship. But the upcoming encyclical could provide momentum to spur climate change action around the world.

Deacon Lucio Caruso, director of mission for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Louisville, said that the Archdiocese has been addressing climate change for years, because the church believes it is humans’ responsibility to care for creation. The church has also been involved in social justice issues, and many environmental issues disproportionately affect the poor.

Caruso said by virtue of his position, Pope Francis has access to influential players and is well-positioned to take on climate change.

“I think because of that, I think the Catholic Church through the Pope has a good vantage point to address some of the moral implications around environment and ecology,” he said.

Though climate change has become a political issue in the United States, Caruso doesn’t think Pope Francis’ encyclical will cause divisions in the church.

“I think there will be agreement in terms of the core principles,” he said. “How we go about applying it, as all of our principles go, there might be room for some debate in terms of the best way to proceed. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean we are not going to be in agreement that we have to proceed in some new directions for the sake of the Earth.”

But not everyone is eagerly awaiting the encyclical. According to The Guardian:

"Francis will also be opposed by the powerful US evangelical movement, said Calvin Beisner, spokesman for the conservative Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has declared the US environmental movement to be 'un-biblical' and a false religion.

'The pope should back off," he said. 'The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.'"
Pope Francis has indicated his encyclical will be issued this spring.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.