Christian Aid says Pope Francis' climate encyclical is 'game changing'

(Photo: REUTERS / Erik De Castro)Pope Francis smiles as he waves to residents during a motorcade in Tacloban city, after holding a mass near the airport, January 17, 2015. An emotional Francis, wearing a plastic poncho over his vestments to protect him from the wind and rain on Saturday, comforted survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines' worst natural disaster that killed about 6,300 people 14 months ago

The World Council of Churches and the poverty-fighting UK based Christian Aid have praised Pope Francis for his call for a radical rethinking of humanity's relationship with the earth in which he urges people of faith in all walks of life.

The Pope's encyclical called Laudato si (May you be praised) asks "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?"

The letter to the faithful calls on people, especially politicians, to heed the pontiff's appeal for action to address climate change.

The WCC welcomed Francis' encyclical noting that it highlights what churches and ecumenical organizations have been doing for decades on caring for the earth and climate justice issues.

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"This is the time to focus on our shared responsibility as human beings, and the way we as churches should support those who are ready to make the required changes", said Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC in a statement.

Christian Aid's policy and public affairs director, Christine Allen, said the Pope's intervention was a natural extension for his ministry for those in poverty.

She said: "The hallmark of Pope Francis' ministry has been his care for the poor. You can't claim to care for the poor and ignore climate change.

"Climate change is not just a scientific phenomenon, or a political football, it is a moral issue which demands an ethical response.

'POLITICIANS LETTING THEM DOWN'

"To those suffering the effect of climate change and those who feel politicians are letting them down, this is a message of hope.

"People of faith must hear the call to stand alongside people of every nation and work together, not letting narrow self-interest or national politics block our common need.

"Even more than that the vision of faith calls everyone to recognise our dependence on the natural world and calls us to reassess all our actions that damage our fellow creatures," said Allen.

In his letter, Pope Francis writes "The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned.

"In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.

"The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development."

The encyclical asserts that climate change is not merely a "global problem with serious implications", but it is felt  disproportionately by the poorest people in the world.

The Pope writes: "Those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms."

And a failure to respond, says Francis, is an indicator of the loss of a "sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded."

Adam Frank of National Public Radio commented, "By taking on climate change, the leader of one of the world's major religions is injecting something into the debate that has mostly been missing: the question of values.

Pope Francis appears ready to argue that since the science is long settled, it's now time to turn the discussion about climate change in a much different direction. Now we must ask ourselves what — based on our deepest values — are we obliged to do about it?

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