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Catholics organize to promote pope's climate change message

Published:Tuesday | May 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Pope Francis shakes hands with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a meeting at the Vatican. Ban praised Pope Francis for framing climate change as an urgent moral imperative, saying his upcoming encyclical combined with a new round of UN climate talks in Paris provide an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to create a more sustainable future for the planet.
Pope Francis arrives for a recent general audience in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican through a throng of people carrying umbrellas for the rain. Francis is issuing an encyclical on the environment and climate change by the end of June 2015.


There will be prayer vigils and pilgrimages, policy briefings, seminars and sermons in parishes from the United States to the Philippines.

When Pope Francis releases his much-anticipated teaching document on the environment and climate change in the coming weeks, a network of Roman Catholics will be ready. These environmental advocates, who work with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities and lay movements, have been preparing for months to help maximise the effect of the statement, hoping for a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.

"This is such a powerful moment," said Patrick Carolan, executive director of Franciscan Action Network, a Washington-based advocacy group formed by Franciscan religious orders. "We're asking ourselves, 'What would be the best way for us to support the faith community in getting this out and using it as a call to action?'"

Francis is issuing the encyclical by the end of June with an eye toward the end-of-year UN climate-change conference in Paris. While previous popes have made strong moral and theological arguments in favour of environmental protection, Francis will be the first to address global warming in such a high-level teaching document.

The pope, who will address the UN General Assembly on September 25, when he visits the US, has said he wants the encyclical to be released in time to be read and absorbed before the Paris talks. Advocates are pressing for a binding, comprehensive agreement among nations to curb rising global temperatures, which scientists say are largely driven by carbon emissions.