Encyclical on ecology due out ‘early next year’

| Joe Towalski for The Catholic Spirit | November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on ecology will address a wide range of issues related to the environment, including how they impact the world’s poor and marginalized, said the chief of staff to Cardinal Peter Turkson, who is advising the pope in its drafting.

Two issues in particular have come together that Pope Francis wants to address in a coherent way, said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is headed by the cardinal.

First, there is the urgency and difficulty of coming to a global agreement on how to address climate change.

“You can’t ignore this,” Father Czerny said in an interview Nov. 5 before delivering remarks from Cardinal Turkson at the “Faith, Food & the Environment” symposium in St. Paul. “While people can have different opinions across a range, the fact is that just to stall is to decide, and it’s to decide one way that is irreversible. As a spiritual leader of so many people and as a leading figure worldwide, I think [Pope Francis] feels a real obligation to address this.”

The pope’s other concern is the impact of climate change and environmental policies on the world’s poor.

“The people who are paying the price for the imbalance in the way we are using resources, the way the economy is organized, the way trade is conducted . . . not only have to stop paying unjustly, they have to play an active role in seeking and finding solutions,” Father Czerny said.

Pope Francis told an international gathering of grassroots social activists at the Vatican last month that their concerns would be present in the encyclical, which Father Czerny said is expected “early next year.”

The priest said he hoped conference participants, especially those who work in agriculture, would leave feeling “encouraged and stimulated to see how they live their faith in that sector.”

He also wants Catholics in the pews to feel empowered to address important social and environmental issues and renew their sense of having a “political vocation.”

“We maybe used to think that you could be a good Catholic and whether you were interested or not in politics is a secondary issue,” he said. “But the world needs us to solve its problems. . . . I hope people will draw that lesson and will act out their political responsibility for the sake of the future.”

Towalski, editor of The Visitor in the Diocese of St. Cloud, is the former editor of The Catholic Spirit.

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