Scientists Praise Pope Francis' Encyclical on Climate Change, Foresee 'Unbelievable' Impact on Over 1 Billion Catholics, Challenge to Skeptics

Pope Francis
Pope Francis arrives to lead a special audience for Vatican employees at the Paul VI's hall at the Vatican, Rome, Italy, December 22, 2014. |

Scientists are praising Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on climate change, a major written work calling on Christians to care for the planet and reverse harmful effects, which is set to be released on Thursday.

"The encyclical is going to go out to over 1 billion Catholics — that's a way of getting a message across to a segment of society that the scientific community could never do," said Jeff Kiehl of National Center for Atmospheric Research, according to USA Today. "I mean it's just unbelievable."

NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt added:

"The pope's encyclical is probably going to have a bigger impact than the Paris negotiations," he said, referring to a major U.N. climate change conference set for December.

The document will put into written words the pontiff's numerous calls for people to take care of the planet, which he calls God's creation, that he has made throughout his papacy.

Francis agreed with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon back in April that tackling climate change is both a "scientific reality" and an urgent world issue.

"The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations," the pope has said.

Francis, who holds a master's degree in chemistry and a history of environmental concern, has agreed with scientists that people bear a great responsibility for climate change.

"Mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face," the Roman Catholic Church leader has said.

Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Order of Friars Minor in the U.S., pointed out that the title of the encyclical, "Laudato Si," is a reference to a hymn by St. Francis of Assisi that emphasizes being in the harmony of God with other creatures and with other human beings.

Perry said, according to Catholic News Service, that the canticle "is not just a flowery song about how we should live with nature. It is challenging us to revise our entire way of living our lives" in accordance with Gospel values, he said. "If someone is starving somewhere in the world, we are responsible."

He added that the document will highlight the Vatican's call for the entire church to be in solidarity with the poor, strive for peace, and respect the planet.

Perry suggested that the encyclical is not supposed to "shame" those who disagree with scientists, but is Francis' way of promoting dialogue and trying to be "the bearer of that white flag," calling on all of "God's children" to care for creation.

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