In a highly anticipated encyclical, or public letter, Pope Francis issued a call to action to save the planet and backed scientists who say climate change is real and mostly caused by humans.
The pope highlighted humans’ moral obligation to protect the environment, because its degradation impacts mainly the poor, he said.
It is the first papal encyclical with a sole focus on conservation and was not just intended for guiding Catholics. Pope Francis called for a “new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone.
“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change,” he wrote.
The 184-page document, called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home”, attracted criticism even before its release on Thursday.
Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush said earlier in the week, “I don’t get my economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”
Another Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, said the Catholic Church should stay focused on “what we’re really good at, theology and morality.”
“Those who argue that the pope should stick to faith and morals and not political issues don’t seem to think there are any Catholic moral issues outside the bedroom,” wrote the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter. “What can be a more important moral issue than one that could cause the death and displacement of millions of people?”
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that U.S. Catholics are divided on the environment with 71 percent agreeing the planet is getting warmer and 47 percent attributing it to human causes.
The document comes ahead of the U.N. conference on climate change in Paris this December.
You can read the full encyclical here.