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Bishop: Pope's Encyclical Calls for Dialogue On Climate Change

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Environmental activists and supporters of renewable energy are celebrating the strong message from Pope Francis on climate change. And the Pontiff’s encyclical has drawn comment from northwest Florida’s Roman Catholic leader.

An encyclical is considered to be a major writing by a Pope, usually addressed to the universal Church, as well as to anyone who’s willing to read it, says Bishop Gregory Parkes, who oversees the Pensacola-Tallahassee Catholic Diocese.

“And it typically addresses very important topics,” said Parkes. “So the encyclical that was just released by our Holy Father, addresses the issue of creation, and our need to care for this Earth.

In an encyclical, the Pope is speaking as a pastor and moral leader, in terms of authority, says Parkes. It’s part of the “Ordinary Magisterium,” or the Church’s Teaching Office.

Francis blames global warming on an unfair industrial model based on fossil fuels, and he said it harms the poor the most. Parkes says the Pope is not speaking as a scientist, and the encyclical is not a research paper.

“While I know there are differing opinions on climate change and global warming,” Parkes said, “Our Holy Father is simply acknowledging the ideas and thoughts that are widely published, and calling on us to a greater dialogue with how to address those issues.”

Other popes have issued their own encyclicals on the environment. Benedict XVI was called “the Green Pope” for, among other things, having solar panels installed at the Vatican. But one difference is that Francis writes about melding the environment with economic issues, in what’s called an “Integrated Ecology” – an ecology that links both a need to care for the Earth and for each other.

In another part of the wide-ranging manifesto, Francis calls for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he described as a "perverse" economic system -- where the rich exploit the poor and turn the world into what he called an "immense pile of filth."

Republicans in Congress are pretty much shrugging off the Pope’s claims, including comments on the floor of the U.S. Senate from Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee. He has called global warming “a huge hoax.”

“Climate is changing, and climate has always changed and always will,” said Inhofe. “The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful they can change climate. Man can’t change climate.”

Inhofe says he worries the pope's encyclical will be used by "alarmists" to push policies that will lead to a big tax increase. He and other critics may get the chance of voice their opinions personally. In September, Francis will become the first Pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released figures showing that last month was the hottest May in 136 years of global records -- about a degree and a half warmer than the 20th-century average.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.