Pope Francis and an Interfaith Response to Climate Change
[picture: The Pope builds an interfaith coalition against modern day slavery. Will an interreligious coalition against climate change be next? Via Fox News]
Today Pope Francis releases his widely anticipated public letter (or encyclical) on climate change, addressed not only to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics but to “every person living on this planet.”
A few excerpts that offer a glimpse into the full 184-page encyclical:
A solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system (section 23)
We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not resolved the problem of poverty (section 27).
Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (section 49).
Buddhist teacher Thanissara has published a response, celebrating the Pope’s supposed “radicalism” as important spiritual leadership on behalf of future beings:
In delivering this message with a clarity rooted in scientific truth, the Pope demonstrates the kind of leadership needed in these frightening times. Some may call the Pope “radical” but the fact is ensuring future generations suffer dire consequences due to our negligence constitutes radical ignorance. In truth, the Pope’s radicalism is wholly worthy of the Christ, and all great religious founders, who changed the course of humanity through the might of their spiritual power.
In response to the Pope’s statement on climate change, the OurVoices Campaign is bringing 100 emerging interfaith leaders from around the world to Rome for a march and 3-day convergence from June 27-July 1. I’ll be attending on behalf of Buddhist Peace Fellowship, sharing some of the environmental actions we’ve participated in against fracking and destruction of an urban farm, and getting more training on media and campaign planning. I’ll be bringing our hand painted banner about climate change (pictured below from our recent trip to the White House) to the One Earth, One Human Family climate march.
[Happen to be in Rome on Sunday, June 28th? Join me at the Climate March! Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate].
Just before my trip, an interreligious conversation initiated by Pope Francis called “Dialogue and Fraternity” will be taking place between Buddhist and Catholic leaders from the United States. Long time BPFers Mushim Patricia Ikeda and Hozan Alan Senauke will be heading to Rome from June 22-27 to participate in the event, which will include an audience with the Pope himself.
In the invitation to the event, Vatican leaders shared one take on the alignment between Catholic and Buddhist leaders in our engagement with the world:
This year, Cardinal Tauran, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), wrote in his annual Vesakh Message to Buddhists that such fraternal dialogue can lead to interreligious cooperation in order “to respect and defend our shared humanity….to be outspoken in denouncing all those social ills which damage fraternity, to be healers who enable others to grow in selfless generosity, and to be reconcilers who break down the walls of division and foster genuine brotherhood between individuals and groups in society.” Dialogue and Fraternity, therefore, seeks to address social ills, heal those who suffer from these ills, and reconcile divisions in society
What do you think, BPFers? As I head to Rome, I’d love to hear more of your thoughts in the comments.
Do you think the Pope’s message is an important turning point in the movements to prevent climate catastrophe? What specifically do faith leaders have to offer in this fight?
Is it strategically important for Buddhists to link up with Catholics and others for interfaith organizing?
How do we navigate collaboration with the Vatican, an institution with a troubling history from the Crusades to sex abuse scandals? And with a Pope that has good politics around climate change and poverty, but one who plans to confer sainthood to Junipero Serra, reviled by California’s Native American communities for his genocidal and colonizing mission system and who responds to Rome’s Gay Pride parade with a statement that straight couples make the best parents?
Should we be articulating a distinctly Buddhist faith-based response to climate change? Who should be articulating that? With our decentralized tradition, would there be consensus between Buddhists in Thailand and Japan, Sri Lanka and Burma, the UK and the US?
What do you think about the encyclical itself? What’s inspiring to you, what irks you, and what do you wish he’d said instead?