Pope Francis continued the work of his predecessor Benedict XVI on Sunday, calling to his followers’ attention the need to protect the environment. He will release an encyclical, or teaching letter, in the next few days.
The letter, called “Laudato Si (Be Praised), On the Care of Our Common Home,” encourages everyone—not just Catholics—to become part of the discussion of environmental issues, particularly climate change. Pope Francis urged the tens of thousands of visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to see themselves as “stewards of creation.”
“Let us pray that everyone can receive [the encyclical’s] message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us,” Pope Francis told Vatican Radio.
This papal message and the ensuing letter were probably purposefully scheduled to coincide with the landmark United Nations meeting on climate change that many are hoping will result in an official decision to have countries work together to combat climate change and its effects on the world.
Pope Francis has spoken on environmental issues before, including hosting a United Nations delegation that discussed the issue in April.
The encyclical is scheduled to be released on Thursday at a Vatican news conference. The presentation speakers will include a Vatican cardinal, a Greek Orthodox theologian, and an atheist scientist, highlighting Pope Francis’s desire to present climate change as something people of all belief systems should recognize and deal with together.
As the first Pope from Latin America, where poverty is widespread, it’s likely that Pope Francis’s message will address issues of economic disparity and how environmental concerns can be addressed, such as moving away from “throw-away” lifestyles to reuse and reduce as much as possible.
Sources familiar with the encyclical confirm that it will side with scientists in blaming climate change in large part on humanity, a move that may upset climate change deniers and other more conservative religious leaders.