Why the Pope Is Going Green
Image: Franco Origlia / Getty Images

Pope Francis is calling for an “ecological conversion.”

In a 184-page letter to Catholic leaders released Thursday, Francis warns of “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us” and recommends renewable fuel subsidies and maximum energy efficiency to combat global warming.

The encyclical—Catholics’ term for a document sent from the pope with instruction on doctrinal matters—bears the title Laudato Si' (“Praised Be”) and displays Francis' concern for the poor. The most vulnerable victims of climate destruction, he claims, are the world’s poorest people, who lack the resources to adapt to climate change and natural disasters.

The pope envisions a new partnership between science and religion, each with a “distinctive approach to understanding reality” yet “can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” He prescribes carpooling, taking public transportation, planting trees, and recycling to help combat human-caused climate change.

Some critics say the pope should refrain from speaking about scientific matters, while others laud his letter as a major contribution to the climate change debate. (Evangelicals who are Francis fans are split on climate change.)

The encyclical, however, is far more than a doomsday letter or a how-to of environmental care. Underlying the warnings and prescriptions, he offers a theology of creation that emphasizes how, by God’s design, human beings and the created world are deeply connected. If we understand this, Francis says, it can change the way we relate to God, to one another, and creation.

‘Everything Is Interrelated’

Francis ...

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