TIME faith

Inside Pope Francis’ U.S. Trip Schedule

Vatican Pope Francis'
Massimo Valicchia—NurPhoto/AP Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican City, on June 24, 2015.

The schedule says a lot about Pope Francis' focus

Pope Francis’ schedule is almost always a political document. Everyone wants a piece of it, especially when it comes to his upcoming September trip to the U.S. The White House and Congress, not to mention outside groups, have been lobbying for months to try to influence his agenda. On Tuesday morning, the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the official schedule for the trip. Predictably, it is packed. Pope Francis will visit Cuba and the U.S. from Sept. 19-28—four days in Cuba, five in the U.S—and give a total of 26 addresses, 18 of them in the U.S.

The world has known the big-ticket items for months—a meeting with President Obama, an address to the U.S. Congress, a talk at the United Nations, and a mass in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. But the other events hold just as powerful a message. The logistics are often the key to understanding the entire agenda—where Pope Francis is, who he is with, where he is coming from and where he is going next say as much about his message as his words themselves.

This schedule shows the Pope’s diplomatic acumen from the start. Pope Francis comes to Washington only after giving first dibs to Cuba, an island that the U.S. had blackballed economically until he intervened in December. And, Pope Francis will fly directly from there to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington DC, symbolizing the new link he helped to forge between the two nations.

Once he has arrived in the U.S., Pope Francis establishes a pattern—he links political events with pastoral ones. His first full day in Washington, the Pope will meet with Obama at the White House, and then leave to hold midday prayer with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. It is tradition for the pope to gather the bishops when he visits, and leaving the White House for a church shows the value Francis places on the work of the church and its leaders.

The next day, immediately after speaking to the U.S. Congress, he will visit Catholic Charities, the social outreach ministry of the Archdiocese of Washington, which does extensive work to serve the area’s poor, homeless and immigrant communities. The juxtaposition is a not-so-subtle hint about who Pope Francis hopes political leaders will be—politicians who serve the poor, instead of staying isolated in the halls of power.

The pattern continues in New York, where Pope Francis will begin his time with an evening prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral before addressing the U.N. the next morning. From there, he will—again—go directly to an interfaith service at the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. It is another statement about the importance of solidarity, especially between Christians and Muslims in the face of global extremism. Pope Benedict visited Ground Zero to pray in 2008, but Francis is taking it to another level with an interfaith focus. He will then visit a Catholic elementary school in East Harlem, and celebrate mass in Madison Square Garden.

When Pope Francis goes to Philadelphia, the pattern shifts, but only slightly. The World Meeting of Families, a Catholic gathering of families every three years hosted this time in Philadelphia, was from the start the reason for his trip to the U.S. Here, Francis adds specifically political moments to a primarily pastoral visit. In addition to celebrating mass at the Cathedral Basilica, visiting the Festival of Families, and meeting the bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Pope Francis will visit Philadelphia’s largest prison, the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility. What Pope Francis will do there remains to be seen, but his mere presence will both highlight high incarceration rates in the U.S. and make it hard to ignore the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty.

The whole trip concludes with an outdoor mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 1979.

Francis’ schedule is like a liturgy. It is a roadmap to guide the desired focus of, and communal participation in, his message. And the places he has chosen—Catholic Charities in Washington, a school in Harlem, an interfaith service at Ground Zero, a prison in Philadelphia—will likely end up saying as much about what Francis’ focus is as anything else.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Says Arms Manufacturers Can’t Call Themselves Christian

"Duplicity is the currency of today...they say one thing and do another"

Pope Francis continued his week of politically charged comments on Sunday, saying arms manufacturers who call themselves Christians are hypocrites.

At a rally of thousands in the Italian city of Turin, the Pope said that those who claim to follow the teachings of Christ but also manufacture weapons “leads to a bit of distrust.”

His criticism was not limited to the manufacturers, however; Francis also called out investors, saying “duplicity is the currency of today…they say one thing and do another.”

Francis’ comments come on the tail of the leak, and subsequent release of, his 192-page climate change encyclical on Thursday, in which he said that man-made climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poor.

[Reuters]

Read next: Pope Slams ‘Great Powers’ Over Mass Deaths in 20th Century

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TIME faith

Meet the Muslim Mystic Pope Francis Cited in His Encyclical

He lived in the ninth century

Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change cited many of the usual sources: the Bible, his predecessors in the Vatican and his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. It also cites ninth century mystical Muslim poet Ali-al-Khawas.

In the sixth chapter of the nearly 200-page papal letter, Francis writes that humanity can “discover God in all things.”

“The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face,” the pope writes.

In a footnote to that quote, he credits al-Khawas for the concept of nature’s “mystical meaning,” noting how the poet stressed “the need not to put too much distance between the creatures of the world and the interior experience of God.”

He then directly quotes the poet: “The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted.”

Alexander Knysh, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, said that the idea Pope Francis is drawing on in this passage has been influential in literature, including Western figures such as English Romantic poet William Blake.

“According to (the idea), God actively and constantly reminds his servants about his immanent presence not just by means of various phenomena but also by various sounds and noises—rustling of leaves, thunder, rainfall,” Knysh says.

It’s unusual for a pope to cite a Sufi poet, but those who have known Francis since his days in the slums of Argentina say that shows his personal touch on the encyclical.

“He’s trying to foster ecumenical and interfaith dialogue about shared spirituality,” Father Augusto Zampini, an Argentinian priest and theological advisor to the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, tells TIME.

“He’s inviting all human beings to transcend, to go out of themselves and therefore to improve the relationship that we have with our people, with the Earth, with God.”

Read Next: Pope Francis Urges Climate-Change Action in Encyclical

TIME faith

John Kerry Praises Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical

Secretary of State John Kerry called Pope Francis’ encyclical a “powerful” statement on the threat of climate change Thursday.

Kerry, who is Catholic, told TIME in a statement that religious engagement on the issue will help spur agreement at the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

The Pope’s powerful encyclical calls for a common response to the critical threat climate change poses to our common home. His plea for all religions to work together reflects the urgency of the challenge. The faith community – in the United States and abroad – has a long history of environmental stewardship and aiding the poor, and Pope Francis has thoughtfully applied those same values to the very real threat our planet is facing today. The devastating impacts of climate change – like heat waves, damaging floods, coastal sea level rise and historic droughts – are already taking place, threatening the habitat all humans and other creatures depend on to survive. We have a responsibility to meet this challenge and prevent the worst impacts. As stewards of our planet, we can all work together to manage our resources sustainably and ensure that the poorest among us are resilient to climate change. We have the overwhelming body of peer-reviewed science to show us what is causing this problem, and we are equipped with the tools and resources to begin solving it. Engagement on this issue from a wide range of voices is all the more important as we strive to reach a global climate agreement this December in Paris.

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Sheba Crocker met with Vatican officials, including the Holy See’s Undersecretary for Relations with States Antoine Camilleri, on May 26 at the Holy See to discuss climate change and Pope Francis’ 2015 Development goals.

“When he speaks on issues—whether it’s on climate change, alleviating poverty, or peace and security issues—it just has a real resonance and that’s something that we find incredibly useful,” Crocker says. “It’s so important for Pope Francis to be speaking in the way that he is—with such a clear voice. He brings such a moral authority to these questions, and his voice resonates in a way throughout the world, which we think provides him with crucial impetus—both political and moral—to help us reach an agreement in Paris at the end of the year.”

It’s another sign that the Obama administration is hoping to leverage Pope Francis’ efforts on shared commitments, especially in advance of his upcoming trip to the U.S. In September. “We have really renewed energy—strong leadership from the United States, but also countries from around the world, and I think real dedication and commitment to try to reach a durable agreement in Paris, which is the historic step, obviously, at the end of this year,” Crocker tells TIME. “It’s a top priority for the administration.”

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Ken Hackett was at the Vatican press conference Thursday morning for the encyclical’s release.

TIME faith

Exclusive: Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical

Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul.
Gokhan Tan—Getty Images Pope Francis (L) and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople speak to the faithful after the Divine Liturgy at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on November 30, 2014 in in Istanbul.

Bartholomew, 270th Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, is spiritual leader to 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world.

Ecology, Economy and Ecumenism

In a series of seminars organized between 1994 and 1998 on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul in Turkey, we drew attention to the close connection between ecology and economy. Both terms share the Greek root oikos, which signifies “home.” It therefore came as no surprise to us that our beloved brother Francis of Rome opens his encyclical, which is being released today in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican, with a reference to God’s creation as “our common home.”

Nor again did it come as a surprise to us that Pope Francis underlined the ecumenical dimension of creation care – the term “ecumenism” also shares the same etymological origin as the words “ecology” and “economy.” The truth is that, above any doctrinal differences that may characterize the various Christian confessions and beyond any religious disagreements that may separate the various faith communities, the earth unites us in a unique and extraordinary manner. All of us ultimately share the earth beneath our feet and breathe the same air of our planet’s atmosphere. Even if we do not do enjoy the world’s resources fairly or justly, nevertheless all of us are responsible for its protection and preservation. This is precisely why today’s papal encyclical speaks of the need for “a new dialogue,” “a process of education,” and “urgent action.”

How can one not be moved by the criticism of our “culture of waste” or the emphasis on “the common good” and “the common destination of goods”? And what of the vital importance attributed to the global problem of clean water, which we have underlined for over two decades as we assembled scientists, politicians and activists to explore the challenges of the Mediterranean Sea (1995), the Black Sea (1997), the Danube River (1999), the Adriatic Sea (2002), the Baltic Sea (2003), the Amazon River (2006), the Arctic Sea (2007) and the Mississippi River (2009)? Water is arguably the most divine symbol in the world’s religions and, at the same time, the most divisive element of our planet’s resources.

In the final analysis, however, any dissent over land or water inevitably results in what the Pope’s statement calls “a decline in the quality of human life and a breakdown of society.” How could it possibly be otherwise? After all, concern for the natural environment is directly related to concern for issues of social justice, and particularly of world hunger. A church that neglects to pray for the natural environment is a church that refuses to offer food and drink to a suffering humanity. At the same time, a society that ignores the mandate to care for all human beings is a society that mistreats the very creation of God.

Therefore, the Pope’s diagnosis is on the mark: “We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” Indeed, as he continues to advance, we require “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.” It is also no surprise, then, that the Pope is concerned about and committed to issues like employment and housing.

Invoking the inspiring words of Scripture and the classics of Christian spirituality of East and West (particularly such saints as Basil the Great and Francis of Assisi), while at the same time evoking the precious works of Roman Catholic conferences of bishops throughout the world (especially in regions where the plunder of the earth is identified with the plight of the poor), Pope Francis proposes new paradigms and new policies in contrast to those of “determinism,” “disregard” and “domination.”

In 1997, we humbly submitted that harming God’s creation was tantamount to sin. We are especially grateful to Pope Francis for recognizing our insistence on the need to broaden our narrow and individualistic concept of sin; and we welcome his stress on “ecological conversion” and “reconciliation with creation.” Moreover, we applaud the priority that the papal encyclical places on “the celebration of rest.” The virtue of contemplation or silence reflects the quality of waiting and depending on God’s grace; and by the same token, the discipline of fasting or frugality reveals the power of not-wanting or wanting less. Both qualities are critical in a culture that stresses the need to hurry, the preeminence of individual “wants” over global “needs.”

In the third year of our brother Pope Francis’s blessed ministry, we count it as a true blessing that we are able to share a common concern and a common vision for God’s creation. As we stated in our joint declaration during our pilgrimage to Jerusalem last year:

“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us … Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Here Are Pope Francis’ Two Prayers on Climate Change

Pope Francis prays during the Way of the Cross torchlight procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday on April 3, 2015 in Rome.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis prays during the Way of the Cross torchlight procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday on April 3, 2015 in Rome.

One for believers of all kinds and one just for Christians

Pope Francis released an encyclical Thursday which calls for action to curb climate change, which he says is caused by human activities.

In the papal letter, named Laudato Si’ or “Praise Be to You,” the pope includes two prayers on the issue—one for believers of all kinds and one specifically for Christians.

Here are the text of those prayers:

At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers. The first we can share with all who believe in a God who is the all-powerful Creator, while in the other we Christians ask for inspiration to take up the commitment to creation set before us by the Gospel of Jesus.

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

A Christian prayer in union with creation

Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love. Praise be to you!

Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes. Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.

Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.

The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!
Amen.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Urges Climate-Change Action in Encyclical

He echoes his namesake, the patron saint of the environment

Pope Francis rocked the international community Thursday with the long-anticipated release of his climate encyclical, an authoritative church teaching poised to reshape the international conversation on climate change.

The letter—named Laudato Si’ or “Praise Be to You,” quoting a song to nature that Saint Francis wrote 800 years ago—is a powerful, prophetic, and personal plea for governments, religions, businesses and individuals to work together to address climate change, much of which Francis says is caused by humans.

Technically this is Pope Francis’ second encyclical—he completed Pope Benedict XVI’s Lumen Fidei, “The Light of Faith,” in June 2013 not long after he was elected. But it is the first one that is solely his, and its significance as a window into Francis’ thoughts and where he hopes to take the Catholic Church cannot be overstated.

Of all of Francis’ careful moves, this one is particularly calculated. It is difficult to imagine the topic was not in his long-term vision the moment he stepped onto the papal balcony to greet the world for the first time in 2013 and announced his name. His chosen namesake, Saint Francis, is not just the protector of the poor—he is also the patron saint of the environment. That foresight continued as the nearly 200-page encyclical was drafted over the past year. Now, the letter launches in time to frame his September visit to the United Nations, and it sets a moral framework for the U.N’s Conference on Climate Change in Paris, which begins in November.

Francis’ vision for change is comprehensive. He addresses the challenges of food production due to uncontrolled fishing. He reminds readers that migrants are forced to flee poverty induced by environmental degradation but are not recognized internationally as refugees. He offers a corrective to past theological interpretations that say that God gave humanity dominion over the earth and challenges the idea that humanity should be the center of concern when it comes to the Earth’s future. He calls out the failures big business, politicians, and international summits.

“It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been,” he writes. “Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”

Francis demands more.

At every point the encyclical gives insight into the kind of leader Francis has chosen to be. Its first sentence connects the Earth with feminine imagery—“Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”—an effort to elevate the place of women in church life. He takes care to build his argument from the work of Catholic bishops in nearly two dozen countries, most in the global South and developing nations, including references to bishops in the Philippines, Bolivia, Argentina, Japan and Southern Africa, which covers Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.

Francis builds his theological argument from the ground up, not just relying on historic church teachings, but also naming practical realities like the challenges of small farmers who, when forced out by large GMO-producers, often turn to poverty-stricken urban areas. He is tuned to detail—everything from the importance of urban planning to improve quality of life to addressing the pollution that arises from traffic congestion. Protecting the least of these for Francis is about more than protecting poor or marginalized humans—as he explains, it includes protecting plankton in the ocean’s food chain and worms in threatened ecosystems.

Through it all Francis, yet again, shows himself to be a personal leader. His writing is simple and clear. He frequently uses the pronoun “me.” He speaks directly, using images that everyday people can understand—he speaks of carpooling, recycling, and turning off lights; of excessive air-conditioning use and waste of discarded food while others starve. He begins with a personal plea, “My Appeal,” as he puts it, for change—“Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest,” he writes. “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” And, he concludes with two prayers—one for Christians and another that believers of all faiths can share.

MORE: Here Are Pope Francis’ Two Prayers on Climate Change

His vision is not just Catholic, but global, ecumenical and interfaith. The Vatican made the encyclical available online in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and—for the first time on an encyclical release day—Arabic. A Vatican press conference on the formal encyclical release Thursday morning featured world leaders, including Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church; John Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany; and Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services and formerly of the University of Notre Dame. It is also the first time that a representative of the Orthodox Church—which first splintered from the Catholic Church in the fifth century—will be participating in such a high-profile way for an encyclical release.

Openness to conversation is a hallmark of Francis’ Jesuit training—being open to growth and listening to other points of view—and it is a model of leadership he showed during the Extraordinary Synod on the family last October, where he stressed that openness in dialogue was key to moving any issue forward. Part of the wisdom in Francis’ leadership is that he is not afraid that people will disagree with him. Instead, he turns that to an advantage.

“Here are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus,” he writes. “Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”

MORE: Read Pope Francis’ Personal Appeal on Climate Change

Francis is also not afraid to call out the powerful and hold them to account. While he does not directly address specific countries and their role in pollution or destruction of resources, his generalities are pointed. Developed countries, he writes, ought to help “by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.”

He even hints that the United States has more moral responsibility because of its global wealth and power. “We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities,” he writes. “As the United States bishops have said, greater attention must be given to ‘the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests.’”

All of this is an open attempt to model the leadership he wants from other governmental and business leaders. Francis is speaking from experience. If anyone knows the challenges of changing entrenched bureaucratic systems, it would be Francis, who is now two years into life in the Roman Curia after a lifetime in the slums of Buenos Aires. “To take up these responsibilities and the costs they entail, politicians will inevitably clash with the mindset of short-term gain and results which dominates present-day economics and politics,” Francis writes in Laudato Si’. “But if they are courageous, they will attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility. A healthy politics is sorely needed, capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia.”

The encyclical is a clear signpost that confirms the direction of the Francis papacy. It is a one that leads from the margins, requires response and hopes for something better for all people. Against overwhelming odds, Francis chooses hope.

“All is not lost,” he writes. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom.”

He adds, “No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.”

TIME faith

Read Pope Francis’ Personal Appeal on Climate Change

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for a meeting with the Roman Diocesans on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for a meeting with the Roman Diocesans on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

"Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home."

Pope Francis released an encyclical Thursday which calls for action to curb climate change, which he says is caused by human activities.

The introduction to the papal letter, named Laudato Si’ or “Praise Be to You,” ends with a section called “My Appeal,” in which the pope personally calls for action.

Here is the text of that section:

My appeal

The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.

It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes. This will help to provide an approach to ecology which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings. In light of this reflection, I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy. Finally, convinced as I am that change is impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.

Although each chapter will have its own subject and specific approach, it will also take up and re-examine important questions previously dealt with. This is particularly the case with a number of themes which will reappear as the Encyclical unfolds. As examples, I will point to the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle. These questions will not be dealt with once and for all, but reframed and enriched again and again.

TIME faith

Faith in Religious Institutions at New Low

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Pete Ryan—Getty Images/National Geographic RF

Confidence in the Church has been steadily declining since the 1980s

As Americans become less religious, confidence in the Church as an institution is plummeting.

According to a recent Gallup poll, faith in organized religion dropped this year to just 42% in the U.S., its lowest point ever.

More Americans are now identifying as non-religious or as members of a non-Christian faith, according to the poll, which came from a sample of 1,527 individuals, including Protestants and Catholics, from all 50 states.

Approval of the church and organized religion in general has been steadily declining since the 1980s, the Gallup study said. The church is in fourth place on Gallup’s confidence in institutions list, behind the military, small businesses and the police.

According to Gallup, the biggest recent drop seems to be amongst Protestants, not necessarily Catholics. Confidence in the Protestant Church fell from 55% to 51% in the past year in a steady decline since it reached 65% approval in 2009.

With the renewed efforts to hold priests accountable in sex scandals, Pope Francis has managed to steady the Catholic Church’s reputation. Americans’ confidence in the Holy See has stayed above 50% for two years in a row now for the first time since 2003 and 2004, a big improvement over their lowest confidence rating of 39% in 2007.

TIME faith

How Pope Francis Hinted At His Climate Change Encyclical

Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter's Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter's Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Francis is expected to call for strong action on climate change in a major papal document Thursday. But even before his first encyclical, there have been signs that he would promote a more environmentalist perspective.

Here’s a look at five times the pope hinted at his climate change stance.

1. When he took his papal name

When the former Jorge Bergoglio was selected as pope in 2013, he chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment. In his inaugural homily, Pope Francis cited his namesake as a model on how to treat the Earth.

“It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live,” he said.

The climate change encyclical, “Laudato Si” (or “Praise Be to You”), is a line taken from Saint Francis’ “Canticle of Creatures.”

2. When he asked for forgiveness for environmental destruction

In May of 2014, Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I co-signed a Common Declaration repenting for humanity’s treatment of the Earth.

“It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us,” they wrote. “Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God.”

3. When he defended poor farmers

Francis has also linked environmental degradation to the Catholic duty toward the poor. In October of 2014, he told participants at the World Meeting of Popular Movements that pollution hurts poor farmers.

“I am concerned about the eradication of so many brother farm workers who suffer uprootedness, and not because of wars or natural disasters,” he said. “The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth.”

4. When he criticized capitalism

Francis has also linked environmental problems to capitalism, which he has criticized.

In an October 2014 address to participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements, the Pope said the modern economy was founded on exploiting the planet.

“There are economic systems that must make war in order to survive,” he said. “An economic system centered on the god of money also needs to plunder nature, plunder nature, in order to maintain the frenetic pace of consumption inherent in it.”

5. When he argued humanity is responsible for the Earth

Francis has also argued that humanity has a special duty to protect the Earth because the Bible says that God entrusted it to us.

In a November 2014 address to participants in the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, he argued that people cannot ignore the moral dimension of environmental protection.

“As disciples of Christ, we have a further reason to join with all men and women of good will to protect and defend nature and the environment,” he said. “Creation is, in fact, a gift entrusted to us from the hands of the Creator.”

 

 

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