Faith Leaders Praise Pope Francis’ Historic Encyclical, Defend Against Backlash

Jun 18, 2015 | In the News, IPL News Highlights, National Press Clips, Press Releases, What's New

Leaders of diverse religious groups agree: Addressing climate change is a moral imperative

SAN FRANCISCO – Prominent faith leaders representing the world’s major religions today defended Pope Francis upon the Vatican’s release of “Laudato Si (Be Praised): On the Care of Our Common Home,” an encyclical on stewardship of the environment and human ecology. The Pope’s pastoral letter, the boldest environmental signal to date from the Roman Catholic Church, calls on all people of conscience to take up climate change as a moral imperative.

“Reverence for the Earth is a tenet of all faiths; religious people are called to be responsible stewards for God’s creation,” said the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham, president and founder of Interfaith Power & Light. “Interfaith Power & Light has been working on this major moral challenge for fifteen years, and Pope Francis’s guidance could be the game-changer that encourages everyone to step up and care for those suffering in the wake of human induced climate change.”

Some prominent global warming deniers are challenging the Pope’s motivations, and dismissing his authority on the issue. But many religious leaders say it is wrong to dismiss Pope Francis’ message on political grounds.

“Leaders of all faiths have witnessed the devastating effects climate change has on our less fortunate brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley, former president of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta. “I’ve heard politicians say the Pope should hold his tongue, but what we have on our hands transcends science and politics. Climate change harms the most impoverished and marginalized members of society – it’s both a human rights issue and a civil rights issue. And if we take Pope Francis’ message to heart, we can, must and will make a difference.”

Pope Francis’ encyclical is the first in history to specifically address humanity’s relationship with the environment. In his letter to all the bishops of the Catholic Church, the pontiff cites the effects a warming planet has on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“Caring for each other, ‘every living thing’ as the Bible says, should take priority over debating the science of climate change or who has the right to an opinion,” said Rev. Richard Cizik, former vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. “People of faith should not let politics harden their hearts to a message from a leader of their faith, and no religious leader should be criticized for speaking out on an issue of moral concern – it’s our responsibility.”

The encyclical explores the relationship between creation care, sustainability of the environment and concern for the poor — all foundational themes for the great religions of the world.

“Every sacred tradition insists that we defend ‘the least among us,’ and it’s a central shared feature in Jewish and Catholic thought,” said Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, committee chair for the Coalition for the Environment and Jewish Life. “May government and industry leaders note the religious unity around this issue. If the world’s religions can agree, surely the nations of the world can do the same, and then the real work on climate change can begin.”

“When we think with our hearts and not our politics, the truth is plain to see,” said Imam Dr. Mohamed Abdul-Azeez. “Our respective faiths guide us toward giving our time, energy and succor to those in need. We are united in our concern and willingness to take action. I encourage everyone, regardless of their religion, to personally consider Pope Francis’ message.”

Added the Rev. Canon Bingham of Interfaith Power & Light, “The impact of today’s message is clear: if you are person of faith, you have a responsibility to address climate change. It’s as simple as that.”

Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) is a national organization with over 40 state affiliates and a network of 18,000 congregations advocating for climate awareness and environmental protection as a moral issue.

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Contact: Sage Welch, 415.453.0430

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