TIME Religion

The 5 Most Important Points of Pope Francis’s Climate Change Encyclical

Pope Francis on June 13, 2015 in Vatican City.
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis on June 13, 2015 in Vatican City.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

We can and must make things better

Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical letter on care for creation made its anticipated debut Thursday morning, and once again, the Bishop of Rome has delivered a masterpiece. The document will play a key role in United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference this November and will be a pivotal point of debate as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up here at home. So what exactly does the pope address in this letter? Here are the top five points in what Francis describes as a “dialogue with all people about our common home.”

1. Climate change is real, and it’s getting worse. Though some politicians in the U.S. still argue about the reality of the climate change, Pope Francis doesn’t mince words: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day,” he says. “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.”

2. Human beings are a major contributor to climate change. While many agree that climate change is real, some believe that human beings don’t contribute to it. The science suggests otherwise, and Pope Francis—a trained chemist—says human beings do have an effect on the Earth: “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”

3. Climate change disproportionately affects the poor. Climate change’s worst impact, Pope Francis says, “will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.” This environmental inequality creates a strange economic phenomenon: Poor countries are often financially indebted to rich countries. The world has what Pope Francis calls a “social debt towards the poor … because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

4. We can and must make things better. Some of those who study climate change believe this process to be irreversible, too far gone. But Francis—whose first major letter was entitled Joy of the Gospel—says he doesn’t believe we should be robbed of hope. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”

5. Individuals can help, but politicians must lead the charge. Francis argues that personal responsibility is an important step toward reversing climate change, but that political and structural transformations are needed for lasting change. “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.”

Some politicians argue that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church should stay out of climate change debates and “leave science to the scientists.” But Francis and the church know that protecting creation is first and foremost a moral and religious issue. It’s a response to God’s ancient request that we preserve, protect, and sustain creation. Francis has said before that he hopes today’s politicians will take this responsibility to heart as they address one of the most important issues of our times: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!”

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 Israel

Israel Church Damaged in Suspected Arson Attack

Israel Church Fire
Baz Ratner—Reuters A nun looks at damage caused by a fire in the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel June 18, 2015.

Mosques and churches have been targeted by vandals in similar attacks over the years

TABGHA, Israel — A Catholic church near the Sea of Galilee was heavily damaged by fire Thursday in a possible arson attack by Jewish extremists.

Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said a fire broke out at the Church of the Multiplication in the middle of the night, causing extensive damage to the inside and outside of the building.

Rosenfeld said police are investigating whether the fire was deliberate and are searching for suspects. A passage from a Jewish prayer, calling for the wiping out of idol worship, was found scrawled in red spray paint on a wall outside the church.

Father Matthias Karl, a German monk from the church, said a souvenir shop, an office for pilgrims and a meeting room were badly damaged, and bibles and prayer books were destroyed in the fire.

“It’s totally destroyed. The fire was very active,” he said.

A monk and a church volunteer were hospitalized from smoke inhalation, but the prayer area of the church was unaffected by the fire, he said.

In recent years, mosques and churches have been targeted by vandals in similar attacks, which are widely condemned across the political spectrum in Israel. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely condemned Thursday’s church burning and said Israel respects freedom of worship for all religions.

Last year, a group of mostly Jewish youth attacked the Church of the Multiplication’s outdoor prayer area along the Sea of Galilee, Father Matthias said, pelting worshippers with stones, destroying a cross and throwing benches into the lake.

The Roman Catholic church, also known as the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, is a modern church built on the remains of a fifth-century Byzantine church. It marks the traditional spot of Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fish, and is located in Tabgha on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.

Its Byzantine mosaic floor draws thousands of visitors of all faiths each year, Father Matthias said.

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 Religion

Jeb Bush’s Response to Pope Francis’s Climate Change Encyclical Is Hogwash

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.
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.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Bush is wrong: The church must get involved in politics

Here we go again. Two weeks after Rick Santorum said Pope Francis should “leave science to scientists,” another Catholic Republican presidential candidate has pushed back on Pope Francis’s upcoming June 18 encyclical letter on climate change.

It only took former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who announced his presidential campaign Monday, one day on the campaign trail to go after Francis on this issue. “I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home,” Bush said about Francis’s encyclical. “But I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” A devout Catholic, Bush said religion “ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

This is absolute hogwash, and Bush knows it.

“As a public leader, one’s faith should guide you,” Bush said in 2009. “In the United States, many people think you need to keep your faith, put it in a security box, if you’re an elected official — put it in a safety deposit box until you finish your service as a public servant and then you can go get it back. I never felt that was appropriate.”

While governor of Florida, Bush credited his Catholic faith for guiding his decision-making on several policy issues, most notably on child welfare. “You hear people say, ‘I don’t want to impose my faith,’” Bush told a Florida Catholic newspaper shortly after leaving office. “Well, it’s not an imposition of faith. It’s who you are.”

So what’s changed since then? The most obvious answer is Pope Francis. He has called on the church to become less “obsessed” with abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception. Perhaps this doesn’t sit well with Bush, Santorum, and other candidates who may find themselves politically at odds with other issues at the heart of the Church’s social mission, including comprehensive immigration reform, abolishing the death penalty, and ensuring workers’ rights to organize.

Bush is wrong: The church must get involved in politics. In fact, a “good Catholic,” Pope Francis has said, “meddles in politics.” We don’t do this to elect a candidate or advance a party, but because politics affects human flourishing, and we’re called by God to defend the dignity of every woman, man, and child.

Bush, Santorum, and other conservatives will allow faith to affect their politics when the church defends the dignity of the child in the womb. They must allow their faith to do the same when the church fights against the rampant consumerism, air pollution, and environmental exploitation. If they do so, they will respond to God’s ancient request to be good stewards of all that God has given us: clear air, fresh water, and fruits of the harvest.

Bush, Santorum and other GOP presidential candidates still have time before the Iowa caucuses to switch course and stand with Pope Francis and the Catholic Church in fighting global climate change. Bush’s political history in particular suggests he might be willing to do so. If he does, he has the rare chance of being a modern American political hero by risking his political future for the sake of his nation’s future.

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 Religion

See How Ramadan Was Observed in the 1940s

As many Muslims prepare to observe Ramadan, a look back at the holiday during a time of great violence in India

Wednesday evening marks the beginning of Ramadan, the month-long observance during which many Muslims fast daily to inspire deep reflection and commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That sense of reflection was captured in 1946 by LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White. For Bourke-White, who spent considerable time in India recording the violence surrounding the partition of India and Pakistan, it was the rare chance to document peace, as she photographed prayers on the last day of Ramadan.

Bourke-White had the unique opportunity to take photographs inside Delhi’s Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. In the captions, LIFE explained the basics of Muslim prayer, with which many of its readers would have been unfamiliar. These included facing in the direction of Mecca, prostrating oneself and praying five times each day.

That year’s September observance of Eid al-Fitr, the final day of Ramadan, fell one month after the event that came to be known as Direct Action Day, a bloody clash between Muslims and Hindus in Kolkata. (The city was then called Calcutta; many of LIFE’s 1946 spellings differ from today’s, as can be seen in the captions above.) While Delhi’s Muslims prayed in mosques, many of Kolkata’s took to the streets in an unusual demonstration, “probably staged,” LIFE conjectured, “for political reasons to impress Hindus of Moslem strength.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

TIME Religion

The Reason Faith Groups Helped Defeat Fast Track

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

It violates a right that isn’t just enshrined in the Constitution, but guaranteed to us as children of God

President Obama’s signature Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was dealt a surprise defeat in the House this afternoon. While the media has often framed the TPP debate as a battle between the Obama Administration and labor groups, the coalition against this controversial legislation is actually much larger.

A diverse coalition of faith groups have taken a particularly large role in opposing fast-tracking this legislation. 35 faith groups signed onto a letter in February calling on Congress to stop the fast-tracking process. One rabbi said bluntly: “fast tracking is the method of despots not democracies.”

Famed social justice priest Father Gerry McCreedon put it this way:

The president and the Republican majority in Congress tell us that this bill will be good for the American people and the global community. If this is the case, why can’t the American people and their elected officials slow the process down enough to see the actual text of the trade agreement? In what other case would it be acceptable to pass a bill without ability to see the text of the bill or make amendments to it?

A photo of Representative Marcy Kaptur trying to review the secret text of the TPP bill captured this troublesome situation well. Kaptur and her colleagues were only allowed to review the 1000 page TPP legislation in a locked room in the basement of the Capitol. According to her office, she wasn’t allowed to bring any staff members with her or take any notes, photos, or copies of the text.

“Not good,” Kaptur said.

She’s absolutely right. This secretive process undermines Americans’ right to participate meaningfully in the governance of our nation: a right that isn’t just enshrined in the Constitution, but guaranteed to us as children of God.

An agreement as big and complex as the TPP deserves to be fully vetted by the public to ensure it promotes the common good. But to date, there has been zero public review.

It’s an affront to the dignity of the American people, and that’s why faith groups have stood up in a big way to fight back. Quoting Pope Francis, a group of Catholic leaders wrote on Ash Wednesday that if “elected officials are willing to take a step of courage against fast tracking this legislation, they will have a Church that will walk with them the entire way.”

Though the debate is long from over, it looks like on Friday Congress got the memo and delivered a big victory for the American 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 Innovation

Why Religion Isn’t Good for Politics

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Religion in America is disappearing. That’s great for politics.

By Michael Shermer in Politico

2. What should we do if ISIS wins? Live with it.

By Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy

3. To get rid of Dengue fever, we’re modifying the mosquitoes that carry it.

By Marc Zimmer in the Conversation

4. Putin’s warlords are slipping out of control.

By Adrian Karatnycky in the New York Times

5. Don’t get a degree in a “hot” field.

By Peter Cappelli in Money

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 LGBT

Australian Couple Vows to Divorce If Gay Marriage Legalized

Husband Nick Jensen says it's a "matter of conscience"

An Australian couple has vowed to divorce “as a matter of conscience” if the country legalizes same-sex marriage.

In an op-ed in the Canberra City News, Nick Jensen wrote that he and his wife Sarah “refuse to recognize the government’s regulation of marriage if its definition includes the solemnization of same sex couples.”

He said that he and his wife would not split up, and would continue to live together and refer to each other as husband and wife. But, he explains, “by changing the definition of marriage, ‘marriage’ will, in years to come, have an altogether different sense and purpose. It will not be about the mystery of difference in sexual unity, as children come from gendered dissimilarity. It will not be about building and securing communities into the future… If this is no longer the case, then we no longer wish to be associated with this new definition.”

The piece incited angry backlash on social media after its publication Wednesday, directed at both the couple and the publication that printed their op-ed. The magazine’s editor, Ian Meikle, defended publishing the story to news.com.au, clarifying that “the article does not reflect the opinion of the paper” but that he “decided it was a serious enough argument to genuinely warrant some attention.”

The Australian Parliament is scheduled to vote on a marriage equality bill introduced by the opposition Labor Party by the end of the year. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not in favor of the bill.

TIME Religion

Can Pope Francis Work a Vladimir Putin Miracle?

Pope Francis meets President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during an audience at the Apostolic Palace on June 10, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Vatican Pool—Getty Images Pope Francis meets President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during an audience at the Apostolic Palace on June 10, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

The pope can use his partnership with Putin to take a lead in foreign affairs

In light of Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin meeting Wednesday at the Vatican, it’s useful to recall the first meeting between the two in November 2013. The scariest photo of Pope Francis was taken at that meeting. Staring at the Russian president from across his desk, the pope’s demeanor suggested he wasn’t afraid of the former KGB officer who has had an iron-fisted rule over the nation for a better part of a generation. Photos speak a thousand words, but in this case, perhaps it was a bit deceptive.

John Allen wrote Tuesday:

Judging solely on the basis of personality, Pope Francis and Russian President Vladimir Putin may seem an odd geopolitical couple. Francis is a man of compassion and peace, while Putin is quite possibly the single world leader you most wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Yet when Francis and Putin meet on Wednesday in the Vatican, it will bring together two figures who’ve forged an improbably strong partnership.

This partnership was originally formed in September 2013 when both Francis and Putin called on the U.S. to not take military action in Syria. Francis and Putin used two very different means to communicate their messages: Francis held a worldwide prayer vigil for peace, while Putin penned a somewhat audacious editorial in The New York Times in which he cited Pope Francis’s objection as a reason for the U.S. to not get involved in the region.

Russia-sponsored media have suggested such partnerships make Putin and Francis champions of similar values—which is clearly overstated. But Francis’s working relationship with Putin isn’t without concern. Some have criticized the pope for being too soft on Putin, particularly after Russia invaded the Crimea region in Ukraine last year. In fact, some of the pope’s strongest critics are bishops in the region.

Yet a little more than two years into his tenure, I still think Pope Francis is the best politician in the world. Twice in his relatively short papacy he’s made significant foreign policy progress.

In June 2014, Francis convened an unprecedented Vatican meeting between then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss a new way forward between the warring nations. Just a few months earlier, a frustrated Secretary of State John Kerry said his efforts to do the same had failed.

And last December, Francis helped usher in a new era of peace and dialogue between U.S. and Cuba. During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, he credited the pope for his crucial role in the process. Just last month, Cuban President Raul Castro said that if Francis keeps going in the same direction, he might even pray again and consider a return to the Catholic Church.

If Francis can help make progress with Putin in resolving the crisis in Ukraine, the pope will have achieved a diplomatic triple crown.

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 Pope Francis

Liberal Clergy Lobby Vatican Ahead of Pope’s U.S. Visit

Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall for an audience with President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on June 7, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall for an audience with President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on June 7, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

A group of liberal clergy and union leaders headed to the Vatican this week to lobby for Pope Francis to address race relations, income inequality and immigration reform, among other issues, in his upcoming trip to the United States.

During the four-day trip, the group of 14 met with representatives from a host of Catholic organizations, including two key cardinals who work on social justice issues.

Organized by the U.S. faith-based grassroots group PICO and the Service Employees International Union, the trip’s main goal was to get Pope Francis to highlight some liberal causes during his September visit.

“God cares about poor, low-wage workers. God cares about immigrants. God cares deeply about racial justice,” Bishop Dwayne Royster of the Living Water United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, one of Francis’ three major stops, told TIME. “So it’s very important that the faith community continue to lift up a moral voice and also a mirror to those in power.”

Read More: Pope Francis’ Poverty Agenda Draws President Obama

An advocate of the “Fight for 15” movement, Royster hoped to get the Pope’s attention on labor relations in his home city. When Francis arrives, Royster noted, “he will come into an airport where we support poverty wages and people are working in an oppressive environment.”

Participants on the trip also took to social media, tweeting images from the Vatican with captions such as “#TellthePope,” “BlackLivesMatter,” and “IBelieveWeWillWin.”

Overall, the people on the trip said their goal was to advocate for the marginalized.

A former undocumented immigrant from California, Father Jesus Nieto-Ruiz went on the trip to push for Pope Francis to back President Obama’s recent executive actions allowing undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.

“The Pope and his advisors should listen to the real stories that we have picked up from people who are struggling in this society of exclusion,” he said. “People who have been here for many years, 25 or 30 years, and are now facing deportation because they don’t have documentation—they suffer in the shadows. And that’s not human.”

Read Next: Pope Francis’ Latest Mission: Stopping Nuclear Weapons

For PICO, the trip was also part of an ongoing “Year of Encounter” campaign to tie together various liberal causes, such as universal health care, a path to citizenship and police brutality, into a broader mission.

It succeeded in one respect, with Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace inviting PICO to send a delegation in July to the Bolivian Assembly, where Pope Francis will speak during a Latin American tour.

For clergy members on the trip, the issues are both political and moral.

“The Gospel is political,” said Nieto-Ruiz. “We cannot distinguish and say, ‘Okay, the Gospel must explain theocracy,’ and then let the politicians run our lives with no principles whatsoever. Pope Francis is really incarnating for us the meaning of the Gospel. He’s inviting us to get involved in politics, even when politics is dirty.”

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