How Pope Francis’ Message on Climate Action Can Inspire the World
Faith leaders have enormous power to influence their congregations. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that when clergy speak about climate change, their members are much more inclined to see it as a concern (62% vs. 39%). So the news that Pope Francis is planning to issue an edict urging his 1.2 billion followers to fight climate change is a very big deal.
As explained in this article in The Atlantic, the pope’s document (called an encyclical) will be distributed to 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests, who will share the message with their congregations across the world. Papal encyclicals are uncommon, which shows how important this issue is to Pope Francis. He has called protecting creation “one of the greatest challenges of our time.” And he has also made numerous statements that express his belief that religion and science don’t have to be in conflict.
Messages tend to resonate best when the messenger is someone the audience trusts and respects. Polls have shown that Pope Francis has broad support around the world, and not just from Catholics – 60 percent of people globally approve of him, and only 11 percent have a negative opinion.
The content of the pope’s message is important, too – he will be appealing to mankind’s moral and ethical responsibility to fight climate change. Our research has found this to be an effective strategy in climate engagement. People want to see themselves as good and moral, and climate action is a concrete way to put their virtues into practice.
ecoAmerica encourages faith leaders of all denominations to follow the pope’s example and use their influence to promote climate action. Our Blessed Tomorrow program empowers leaders to serve as stewards of creation and inspire their congregations and communities to do the same. To join us or learn more, visit momentus.org.
Nicholas St. Fleur, contributor to The Atlantic
The pontiff plans to issue a rare and controversial plea for Catholics to consider the environment. Recent polls show his message just might resonate.
Pope Francis has ambitious environmental plans for 2015. Come March, he will deliver a 50 to 60-page edict urging his 1.2 billion Catholic followers to take action against climate change. The Pontiff will make his announcement during his visit to the Philippian city of Tacloban, which was ravaged by typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands in 2013.
But within his global congregation, many conservative Catholics are expected to oppose the pope’s environmental views.
The message comes months in advance of the next United Nations climate meeting, which is slated to begin November 2015 in Paris. The pope’s lead scientific adviser Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, said that the pope’s message to his bishops, called an encyclical, is supposed to influence world leaders as they make their final recommendations after 20 years of negotiating how to reduce global carbon emissions, The Guardian reported. “The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate,” Sorondo said to Cafod, the Catholic development agency, of the pope’s plans.
Image credit: Alessandra Tarantino/AP