In a sweeping environmental manifesto aimed at spurring action, Pope Francis called on Thursday for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he said was a “structurally perverse” economic system in which the rich exploited the poor, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”
Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral crisis to address in his eagerly anticipated encyclical, blaming global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the poor the most.
The document released was a stinging indictment of big business and climate doubters, and aimed to inspire courageous decisions at UN climate negotiations this year as well as in domestic politics and everyday life. Citing Scripture and his predecessors, the pope urged people of every faith and even no faith to undergo an awakening to save God’s creation.
Environmental scientists said the first-ever encyclical, or teaching document, on the environment could have a dramatic effect on the climate debate, lending the moral authority of the immensely popular Francis to an issue that has long been cast in purely political, economic or scientific terms.
Scientific data on Thursday backed up Francis’ concerns. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released figures showing that last month was the hottest May around the globe in 136 years of global records.
Francis said he hoped his paper would lead both ordinary people in their daily lives and decision-makers to a wholesale change of mind and heart, urging all to listen to “both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” The timing of the encyclical was intentional: Nations across the world will meet in Paris at the end of the year to try to come up with a binding agreement to reduce heat-trapping gases.
The encyclical “Laudato Si, (Praise Be): On Care for Our Common Home” is 191 pages of pure Francis, named for a prayer penned by his namesake, the nature-loving St. Francis of Assisi.
However, within the church, many conservative Catholics have questioned the pope’s heavy emphasis on the environment and climate change over other issues such as abortion and marriage.