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Way to go, Frankie!

Since his installation as pope, the man known as Francis has been something of a breath of fresh air in a staid and stodgy old institution. Not only that, he has also been an inspiration to non-Catholics and even to non-religious people with his welcoming and non-judgmental attitude. 

Now, with the encyclical entitled "Laudato Si," translated as "Praise Be to You," which was released yesterday, Pope Francis has staunchly aligned himself and the Catholic Church with the overwhelming majority (97%) of climate scientists who firmly place the blame for our rapidly warming climate on human activity and human release of greenhouse gases. He further pointed out that the impoverished people of the world bear a disproportionate burden from the effects of such pollution, whether they live in a rich country or a poor country. Thus, his encyclical can be seen as just one more step in his attempt to refocus his church on the problem of poverty and working to better the lives of the impoverished and downtrodden.


Several commentaries that I have read concerning the encyclical point out that the sections of the document that lay out the facts of ecological problems, including global warming, air and water pollution, the wanton destruction of forests, the wasteful use of resources to name just a few, note that the pope has taken his stand squarely with the mainstream scientific thinking in these areas. That is perhaps not surprising since he was trained as a scientist himself, but how refreshing it is to have a religious leader unequivocally acknowledging the accuracy of science, rather than referring to the Bible as a science book, as so many fundamentalists in this country do. 


While his delineation of the problems we face is careful to stick to scientifically established facts, the encyclical also reveals the strong emotions of the man regarding what he - and I - see as desecration of the earth. He writes, in part, "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish." 


The question is, will his emotional response to humanity's treating our only home in the universe as a garbage dump have an impact on people, maybe even the politicians who have been bought by the oil companies? Will it finally move them to action? The hard lesson that scientists have learned in recent years is that laying out the facts won't do it. Perhaps an emotional appeal from the pope will. One can hope.


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My Catholic daughter sent me a translation of the prayer that was included as part of the encyclical. I think it is something that most of us who love Mother Earth, regardless of our religious beliefs, can subscribe to.



     

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