Warm welcome for Pope’s ‘significant’ climate change message

UN special envoy Mary Robinson says encyclical shows matter is ‘moral issue of our time’

International aid agencies and environmental groups have hailed Pope Francis’s “game-changing” message on the need to protect the environment and tackle climate change. Photograph: Maurizio Brambatti.

International aid agencies and environmental groups have hailed Pope Francis’s “game-changing” message on the need to protect the environment and tackle climate change. Photograph: Maurizio Brambatti.


Ireland’s Catholic primate Eamon Martin and former president Mary Robinson are among many who have extended an enthusiastic welcome to Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si .

Archbishop Martin described it as “good news for the universal Church, and for the whole world.” He invited everyone to read it “and to reflect on its key question, ‘What kind of a world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’.”

He noted that the encyclical takes its name from an invocation of St Francis of Assisi “which in the Canticle of the Creatures reminds us that the earth, our common home ‘is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us’.”

Pope Francis points out that this “sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. Her cry, united with that of the poor, stirs our conscience to “acknowledge our sins against creation.”

Principal challenges

Ms Robinson, the UN special envoy on climate change, found it “ significant that Pope Francis uses one of the highest forms of doctrinal teaching, to communicate that preserving a safe climate system ‘represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day’.”

His encyclical was “a call for climate justice from one of the most influential moral voices on our planet today. In it Pope Francis shows his profound understanding of the connection between nature, justice for people living in poverty, human dignity and the need to act in solidarity in the face of climate change. Above all else, Pope Francis establishes climate change and safeguarding the earth for humanity as the moral issue of our time.”

On Monday and Tuesday of next week she, Prof Jean Pascal Van Ypersele of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Bill McKibben founder of the climate awareness group 350.org will be among high profile speakers at a conference on global warming in Maynooth organised by Trócaire. Details at climatejustice2015.org

Trócaire’s executive director Éamonn Meehan said Pope Francis’s encyclical marked “a turning point in the global response to environmental justice, and particularly climate change.

“It was “one of the most significant Church documents in a generation. It is a powerful wake-up call to a world sleep-walking into disaster. Pope Francis has clearly aligned the Catholic Church with calls for urgent political action to reduce carbon emissions and set the world on the path to a sustainable future,” he said.

Radical rethinking

In Dublin, Christian Aid’s head of advocacy and policy Sorley McCaughey praised Pope Francis for his call for a radical rethinking of humanity’s relationship with the earth and urged both people of faith in all walks of life, and especially politicians, to heed his appeal for action to address climate change.

“The hallmark of Pope Francis’ ministry has been his care for the poor. You can’t claim to care for the poor and ignore climate change. Climate change is not just a scientific phenomenon, or a political football, it is a moral issue which demands an ethical response,” he said.

He hoped “the Pope’s game changing intervention will light a rocket under politicians who need to show the same kind of urgency being demonstrated by the Vatican.”

Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland chief executive, said Pope Francis’ call to action was “unprecedented” and “reminds us that climate change is first and foremost about people”.

It was the case that “only when world leaders heed the Pope’s moral leadership on these two defining issues, inequality and climate change, will our societies become safer, more prosperous and more equal,” he said.

The Women’s Ordination Conference, which campaigns for women’s equality in the Catholic Church, said it “ applauds Pope Francis for awakening global consciousness about the exploitation and suffering of our natural and spiritual world in his encyclical.”

It said “we share Pope Francis’ message of interconnectivity, co-responsibility, dialogue and transparency in decision-making. We pray for our common home as well as our Church, as places where these values are not yet fully realized.”

Call to action

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said the papal encyclical was “a clear call to action for everyone, everywhere”.

“ I am hugely encouraged that the pope has clearly laid out how humans and nature are intrinsically linked and that economic, social and ecological justice are indivisible,” he said.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said the pope had made a “valuable intervention in humanity’s common struggle to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

“This first encyclical on the environment brings the world a step closer to that tipping point where we abandon fossil fuels and fully embrace clean renewable energy for all, by the middle of the century.

“Everyone, whether religious or secular, can and must respond to this clarion call for bold urgent action.”

Additional reporting - PA