The excitement is building: for the first time in history, the Pope is issuing an encyclical on the environment… but wait, why is this important?
First, the Pope presides over the largest religious body with a single human leader: Catholicism. He is influential.
Second, the encyclical is the second most important document the Pope can issue and is the first of its kind to address environmental issues. The letter is a significant event.
Along with our Catholic partners and Twitter companions @CatholicEcology, @CatholicClimate, and @CathClimateMvmt we are counting down the days with speculation that the encyclical will be issued on June 18.
There has already been much press, outreach, and education in preparation for the encyclical’s release and this spring, Yale University’s Religion and Ecology program hosted a panel titled: “Pope Francis and the Environment: Why His New Climate Encyclical Matters.” You can watch the presentation here where Prof. John Grimm calls the encyclical a “game changer” and points toward its effect on behavior change, and Prof. Mary Evelyn Tucker suggests that this encyclical will impact scientists and policy makers as well as people of faith.
Dave Grace, NCIPL’s Spring 2015 intern, currently pursuing degrees in Duke’s Divinity School and Nicholas School of the Environment, has been influenced by the work of Tucker and Grimm, and he writes:
Ecology is making amends. Theology is making amends. Into this gulf, the Pope’s encyclical will be delivered. And this is timely work given the framing of international policy with the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference. The Pontifical Pundit should indeed now step into the bully pulpit to sound an alarm on the pressing sustainability issues we face and perhaps by doing so we can more fully come to terms with the interrelation of social, economic, ecological issues. Perhaps systemic oppressions and other structural dysfunctions will come to the fore over the minutia we often concern ourselves with. Perhaps we can begin to feel vulnerable enough to admit the limits of our knowledge and knowledge itself for addressing a problem which is as fully human as we are or fail to be.
Another promising update this spring came from a March 30 international meeting of 17 Anglican Bishops who issued a declaratory report, titled “The World Is Our Host: A Call to Urgent Action for Climate Justice.”
Interfaith Power and Light recapped the call to action as informed faith and larger ethical commitments: “The Declaration commits the bishops to specific first actions including: energy conservation measures in church buildings; more renewable energy; nurturing biodiversity on church land; supporting sustainability in water, food, agriculture and land use reviewing churches’ investment practices including a call for divestment; and closer ecumenical and interfaith co-operation” (read more here).
NCIPL’s encyclical events are being planned for September to honor Pope Francis’ first visit to the U.S. The Pope’s travel plans are to first visit Washington D.C. and, at the invitation of John Boehner, give an address to Congress, then travel to New York to address the U.N. leadership, completing the trip with a visit to Philadelphia where he will lead a public mass.
During this time, NCIPL plans to co-host “white smoke” events across North Carolina in each of the six regions of the state. These events will be public forums held at Catholic churches with an agenda to include the sharing of an encyclical overview, key messages, and the call to act. We will be partnering with the Franciscan Action Network and Catholic Climate Covenant in the planning and also working with the EPA and the U.S. Green Building Council to co-host a webinar as part of this campaign to create an online teaching program that will help walk communities of faith through the EnergySTAR Portfolio Manager workbook for congregations platform as a response to Pope Francis’ call to put our faith into action and address the issues and impacts of climate change as a moral imperative.
We hope you will join us in this great work!
Sections of this blog have been included from a piece written by student intern, Dave Grace originally posted on NCIPL’s website.