Many Capital Region Catholics, including the bishop, are responding positively to Pope Francis’ second encyclical, which was published Thursday and calls global warming a real issue that requires action.
The letter is addressed to various leaders of the Roman Catholic Church around the world and is considered one of the most important documents released from the papal office.
Popes have historically written encyclicals to address significant issues and how the church should regard them.
This encyclical, titled “Laudato Si” or “Praise Be to You,” is 184 pages long and includes Pope Francis’ reflections on several controversial topics the church has faced, especially in recent years
“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” he wrote. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”
To reinforce his recognition of warming global temperatures as a very real issue, Pope Francis framed the reflection by highlighting the severity of the situation and who is to blame.
In this way, the encyclical was written as a call to action.
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic and political,” he said in the letter. “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”
Edward B. Scharfenberger, bishop of the Diocese of Albany, agreed with the pope’s perspective.
“Our relationship with the world, as it is with all of those around us, is one of a friendship,” he said in a statement regarding the encyclical. “As with a friendship, it is not what we get from it, but what we give to it, how we nurture it, defend it and protect it.”
Other active members of the church in the area were also pleased by the pope’s words.
Capital District Call to Action is upstate New York’s chapter of a national organization committed to working for justice and equality by promoting the values of the Catholic church. It focuses on understanding multiple viewpoints on issues facing the church, such as women’s rights.
“I think we’re finding an excitement with Pope Francis that we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Steve Powers.
Powers is head of the local Call to Action group based in Albany. He said the way the pope has started discussions among Catholics is “dynamite.”
“We are thrilled to see these issues put right on the front page by our pope,” Powers said. “His example means Catholics all over the world will start speaking openly about these issues, and that’s wonderful.”
Though the letter did not address specific means to resolve the issues, by discussing them at all, Pope Francis encouraged his audience to consider how their actions affect the common good.
“Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change,” he said. “A great cultural, spiritual, and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.”
Bishop Scharfenberger said he is ready to make an effort to change.
“I look forward to continuing this conversation that our Holy Father has encouraged us to engage in, recognizing that we share this earth together,” he said.
Powers is also optimistic about the future for the church. He said he’s re-energized and ready to become a part of the movement, locally and beyond.
“This pope is helping us and the church as a whole to look outwards rather than inwards,” he said. “I think he’s helping to place us, as Catholics, within the context of an evolutionary world. We need to take care of creation around us because it is us, and these discussions are now possible in a very public way. That was never the case prior to Pope Francis.”
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