PORTLAND, Maine — The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland urged members of his flock and nonbelievers to read all of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, which was released from the Vatican in Rome about 5 a.m. EDT Thursday.
“To truly understand the beauty and importance of the Holy Father’s message, I encourage everyone to read the full Encyclical, not just excerpts or selected quotes,” Bishop Robert P. Deeley said in a press release issued about an hour after the encyclical was. “In ‘Laudato Si,’ Pope Francis calls the world to examine the concept of integral ecology.”
The pope demanded swift action on Thursday to save the planet from environmental ruin, urging world leaders to hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” plunging the Catholic Church into political controversy over climate change, Reuters reported.
In his first papal document dedicated to the environment, Pope Francis called for “decisive action, here and now,” to stop environmental degradation and global warming, squarely backing scientists who have said it is mostly man-made.
In the encyclical titled, “Laudato Si (Praise Be), On the Care of Our Common Home,” the pontiff called for a change in lifestyle in rich countries steeped, including the U.S., in a “throwaway” consumer culture and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good.
Reuters reported that Thursday’s announcement, leaked to the media earlier in the week, had been criticized by Republican presidential candidates for delving into science and politics.
One of Maine’s independent political leaders took to the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday to praise Pope Francis’ actions.
“Some of the reaction has been that the pope should stay away from science and stick to morality and theology,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said. “I’m here this morning to say I believe that’s exactly what he is doing. He is sticking to morality and theology — and that’s why he’s made the statement that he has.”
King, an Episcopalian who has said previously that his views on many issues have been influenced by his faith, is a member of the Senate Climate Action Task Force and has repeatedly called for the U.S. to lead in the fight against global warming.
“We have an obligation to do unto others as we would have them do unto us — and so I welcome the pope’s words this week as a valuable voice in an important discussion,” he said.
Pope Francis called for all people to recognize their “responsibility, based on the task that God gave human beings in creation: ‘to cultivate and care for’ the ‘garden’ in which he settled us,” Reuters reported.
Deeley echoed that sentiment in his statement.
“The Holy Father calls us to respect our place in the universe and to understand our nature as created by God, so that we can live in peace with one another and with respect for the resources of our earth,” Deeley said. “The encyclical calls us to live with a consciousness not only of the need to care for the earth but the true human dignity of the person and particularly of those who are poor.”
Meeting the goals outlined in the encyclical will be difficult, the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.
“May we help answer Pope Francis’ call in this encyclical, receiving his message and growing in responsibility towards the common home that God has entrusted to us all,” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville said.