I'm excited to write today about Pope Francis's rallying cry for stewardship of the planet and resounding admonishment of consumerism and greed. This is the first time I've heard a high-profile leader point out that those who suffer the most from climate change are those least responsible for it. In fact, the wealthiest nations and families have enriched themselves by depriving colonized and enslaved peoples of resources and freedom for many generations. The pope states that the former owe reparations for impoverishing the planet.
There are some moving and revealing quotes here*. He acknowledges our free will to choose to cultivate either goodness or suffering and clearly directs that the church "must above all protect mankind from self-destruction." The choice is ours, and he urges us to use our best intelligence, including insights offered by science. His is an encouraging perspective on the collaboration of science and religion.
Here is an Argentine who, in working in slums in Buenos Aires, cultivated deep commitment to end suffering, especially of the poor. Despite the traditional structure of the Vatican his progressive work has grown, rousing opposition among Catholic conservatives. High-profile assassinations, including those of Martin Luther King and President James A. Garfield, have been motivated by threats to class inequality. I am convinced Pope Francis and his advisers are well aware of this, and genuinely perform according to a profound sense of duty and virtue.
We need all religious leaders, communities, oppressed peoples, and privileged peoples to get on board with the Encyclical. Let's receive this message of kindness and concern and broadcast it into our lives a millionfold.