In 2015, pope Francis penned Laudato Si, an encyclical (or formal letter) on the environment. This paper was subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home” and was the most emphatic call yet for Roman Catholics to tackle issues related to planet Earth such as pollution and climate change. While previous popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI did accept the reality of human-caused climate change and considered it a moral issue for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, Pope Francis has made caring for the environment a central issue in his pontificate. This encyclical and several other statements made over the past few years have led some to refer to Francis as “the Green Pope.”

When Laudato Si (which translates to “Praised Be”) was released, it was nothing short of revolutionary. What makes this paper so different from previous statements made by Francis’ predecessors is that it codifies environmental responsibility as a corporal and spiritual work of mercy. In a nutshell, a thing that every Catholic should should do without negotiating. The encyclical centers around concern for fellow humans and asks readers to imagine what will happen if we allow the continued destruction of our planet to continue. While the document does not give specific instructions as to how Catholics are to incorporate these corporal and spiritual works of mercy into their everyday lives, Francis does make it clear that wanton acts of environmental destruction should not be tolerated by the church or its parishioners.

There is evidence to suggest that Francis’ activism has been extremely effective in raising interest around the globe with regard to the environment. A recent study conducted at Langston University in Oklahoma observed that there was a marked increase in users entering search terms into Google relating to environmental issues that began shortly after “Laudato Si” was published. Researchers noted that there had been a decline in interest beginning in the early 2000s, a trend that seem to magically reverse after the encyclical was released. This evidence suggests the Pope’s pronouncements on the environment could be resonating beyond just the Catholic world.

Papal encyclicals have historically been known to cause paradigm shifts. In 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical entitled “Mit brenneder Sorge.” This paper was a scathing indictment of Nazi ideology and accused Hitler’s government of “fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church.” The document further lambasted the rising anti-semitism in Germany at the time, and was seen by many as a turning point in public support for a potential war against the Germans. Catholic reporters covering the Pope say that the Holy Father hopes to similarly shape public opinion with regard do the environmental movement.

What do our Catholic readers think about Pope Francis’ environmental activism? What do our non-Catholic readers think about it? Will his continued devotion to environmental causes shape public opinion when it comes to the environment? Have you personally made any changes to your lifestyle or daily routine in reaction to the words of the “Green Pope?” We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source | Image: Wikimedia Commons