TIME Vatican

World Mayors Seek ‘Bold Climate Agreement’ at Vatican

Vatican Climate mayor gathering
Gregorio Borgia—AP Mayors gather in the Synod Hall to attend a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican on July 21, 2015.

The mayors are expected to sign a declaration stating that dealing with climate change is a "moral imperative"

(VATICAN CITY)—Dozens of mayors from around the world demanded Tuesday that their national leaders take bold steps at the Paris climate talks later this year, saying that may be the last chance to keep the warming of the Earth at levels safe for humanity.

Some 60 mayors selected because they support Pope Francis’ environmental message gathered Tuesday at the Vatican for a two-day conference to keep the pressure on world leaders ahead of the Paris negotiations in December. Francis last month released an environmental encyclical that denounced what he calls a fossil fuel-based world economy that exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.

The mayors are expected to sign a declaration later Tuesday that states that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity,” according to the final declaration seen by The Associated Press.

In his remarks to the meeting, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for the Big Apple and urged other cities to follow suit.

“The Paris summit is just months away,” De Blasio said. “We need to see it as the finish line of a sprint, and take every local action we can in the coming months to maximize the chance that our national governments will act boldly.”

De Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of cities around the world that have committed to reducing their emissions by 80 percent by 2050 or sooner. He said New York was taking an interim step, committing to reducing its emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was an afternoon audience with Pope Francis, who has become a hero to the environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on the poor.

Francis’ other main priority has been to raise awareness about human trafficking. The Vatican conference is aimed at showing how both are related: The exploitation of the Earth and its most vulnerable people, with global warming often responsible for creating “environmental refugees” forced to flee homes because of drought or other climate-induced natural disasters.

“Addressing both these phenomenon, climate change and modern slavery, is a herculean task for us as city administrators,” said Tony Chammany, the mayor of Kochi, India.

The final declaration calls for financial incentives to transition from using fossil fuels to using low-carbon and renewable energies and to shift public financing away from the military to “urgent investments” in sustainable development, with wealthy countries helping poorer ones.

And it says political leaders have a “special responsibility” at the Paris talks to approve a “bold climate agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity, while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change that gravely endangers their lives.”

Drawing rousing applause in one of the opening speeches, California Gov. Jerry Brown denounced global warming deniers who he said are “bamboozling” the public and politicians with false information to persuade them that the world isn’t getting warmer.

Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, urged the mayors to not be complacent in opposing climate deniers. California has enacted the toughest greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America.

“We have a very powerful opposition that, at least in my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” he said.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngaard said the Paris talks must take fossil fuels off the table and focus on other energy sources. Stockholm is one of the world’s leaders in using renewable energy sources, with 75 percent of the city’s public transport network runs on renewable energy. Wanngaard’s goal is to make the Swedish capital fossil fuel-free by 2040.

“Climate negotiators must dare to push boundaries and exclude fossil fuels as an option and reward solutions that are long-term sustainable and renewable,” she said.

Other mayors attending hail from Boston; Boulder, Colorado; Oslo, Norway; San Francisco and Vancouver. Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human emissions.

In addition to the climate declaration, mayors will be asked to sign a statement against human trafficking that was first penned by religious leaders at the Vatican last year.

The conference opened with two tearful testimonies by Mexican women who were trafficked for prostitution and forced labor.

“We are human beings,” said Ana Laura Perez Jaimes, who told of the 600 scars across her body she suffered when forced to work as a slave.

 

TIME Pope Francis

What the Pope’s Left Hook in Bolivia Means

Pope Francis’ speech in Bolivia on Thursday will likely go down as one of the most significant moments of his July trip to Latin America. In a poetic, 55-minute manifesto, Pope Francis called for economic justice for the poor in some of his strongest language yet.

“You are social poets: creators of work, builders of housing, producers of food, above all for people left behind by the world market,” he told a crowd of Bolivian indigenous workers, farmers, and social activists. “You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three “L’s” (labor, lodging, land) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels. Don’t lose heart!”

From afar, the words make it sound like Pope Francis is rallying at the barricades from the stage of Les Misérables. Throw in the fact that Bolivian President Evo Morales presented the Pope with a hammer-and-sickle crucifix, and it seems even socialist.

But context matters. Pope Francis did not give this speech while talking to the U.S. Congress or even in front of the United Nations. He was speaking in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. He was also standing in front of Morales, an Aymara Indian who was wearing a jacket with a picture of Ernesto “Che” Guevara who is the country’s first president to come from its indigenous majority. And he was doing it on his first visit to a country that has had a troubled relationship with the Catholic Church of late.

Under Morales’ administration, relations with church officials have been strained. Nearly 90% of Bolivians were raised Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center, and yet Morales’ government has sought to limit the Church’s power. Bibles and crosses were removed from the presidential palace when he took office in 2006, and a new constitution later declared the country a secular state. Meanwhile 60% of current Protestants in Bolivia say they were raised Catholic, also according to Pew, highlighting Catholic concerns of an evangelical exodus from the faith in the region.

Francis’ apology for Church oppression of indigenous people in the colonial period has particular meaning in this political context. Francis went off script in his apology, making very clear his efforts at reconciliation to set a stage for a future reconciliation. “I also want for us to remember the thousands and thousands of priests who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the cross,” he said. “There was sin, and it was plentiful. But we never apologized, so I now ask for forgiveness. But where there was sin, and there was plenty of sin, there was also an abundant grace increased by the men who defended indigenous peoples.”

For his part, Morales was happy to use the occasion of the Pope’s visit to score a few political points of his own. He used the visit to say on Thursday that he has been seeking a meeting with President Obama, whom he called an imperialist at the U.N. in November. Bolivia’s diplomatic ties with the U.S. broke in 2008 when the country expelled both the U.S. ambassador and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Bolivia is one of the world’s largest producers of cocaine. The Pope’s role in brokering the U.S.-Cuba détente was clearly on his mind, and he tellingly gave credit only to the Pope and Cuba. “It is no concession of Obama’s, but the triumph of the Cuban people and the world as a whole,” he said. For him, then, Pope Francis could be a valuable link between Bolivia and the United States.

In the end, the speech is a reminder that Pope Francis is increasingly a political player in a multi-level game of chess. His power and sway holds particular importance for countries in Latin America, who champion him as the first pope who is actually theirs. The push and pull with Morales tests just how much of a free agent Francis really is.

That outcome also carries particular weight as the world waits to see how Pope Francis will handle his first trip to the U.S., the world’s capitalist superpower, especially looking ahead to his address to a joint session of Congress. There, conservatives continue to raise questions over how close the Pope’s ties to socialism actually are, and whether they approve of his critique of capitalism.

Former ambassador Otto Reich, President George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, says Pope Francis’ economic and political agenda in his trip to Latin America has gone too far. “This pope grew up in a third world country that frankly is an example of what happens when you don’t have capitalism and democracy,” Reich says. “I was very optimistic when he was named and I have been extremely disappointed in the political and economic aspects of his papacy. … He’s a victim of third world education, and Argentina is a particularly sad example.”

With reporting by Massimo Calabresi.

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 Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ Climate-Change Encyclical Leaked Four Days Early by Italian Magazine

The 192-page document is Pope Francis' first major teaching letter on climate change and its effects on the planet's poor

Italian magazine L’Espresso leaked Pope Francis’ hotly anticipated encyclical on climate change on its website on Monday, breaking an embargo on the document set for Thursday.

The 192-page document is Pope Francis’ first major teaching letter on climate change and its effects on the planet’s poor. Hailed by some as the “Pope of the poor,” Francis’ linkage of environmental and economic issues puts the Vatican out front on a closely watched topic.

A Vatican official told Bloomberg News that the leak was a “heinous act.”

“An Italian text of a draft of the Pope’s Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ has been published. Please note that it is not the final text, and that the rules of the Embargo remain in place,” read an official statement from the Vatican. “We ask journalists to respect professional standards, which call for waiting for the official publication of the final text.”

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Gears Up for Environmental Push

'It is man who continuously slaps down nature'

Pope Francis called on the world’s Catholics to pay attention to environmental issues on Sunday, only days before the he’s due to release a landmark encyclical, or teaching letter, calling on people across the world to act as “stewards of creation.”

“Let us pray that everyone can receive its message and grow in responsibility toward the common home that God has entrusted to us,” Pope Francis told Vatican Radio.

The papal message on the environment comes months before a landmark United Nations meeting on climate change that many activists and policymakers think may yield the first binding agreement between countries on the issue. Environmentalists hope the encyclical will inspire some of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to pressure officials to adopt policies that address climate change and other environmental issues. People familiar with the encyclical say that it will support the scientific consensus that humans have caused climate change, according to Reuters.

The anticipated encyclical is the latest in a string of actions from the Vatican to show support for tackling environmental issues. Pope Francis hosted a United Nations delegation that discussed the issue in April and has made a point of discussing the issue publicly.

“I don’t know if it is all [man’s fault] but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he said in January. “I think man has gone too far… thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this.”

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.”

TIME Vatican

The Vatican Calls Ireland’s Vote for Same-Sex Marriage a ‘Defeat for Humanity’

Drag queen and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name as Panti Bliss arrives at the Central Count Centre in Dublin Castle, Dublin on May 23, 2015
Brian Lawless—;PA Wire/Press Association Images Drag queen and gay-rights activist Rory O'Neill, known by his stage name Panti Bliss, arrives at the central count center at Dublin Castle, in Dublin on May 23, 2015

The remark is the most critical made by the church so far

Ireland’s recent referendum approving same-sex marriages has drawn sharp condemnation from a senior Vatican official, who described it as “a defeat for humanity,” the Guardian reports.

“I was deeply saddened by the result,” said the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Tuesday. “The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelization. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.”

Parolin is regarded as the highest official in the church hierarchy after the Pope. His hard-line stance will be greeted with dismay by Catholics hoping for a softening in the church’s position on homosexuality. They come after the Vatican’s recent refusal to accept a gay Catholic, Laurent Stefanini, as France’s ambassador to the Holy See because of his sexuality, the Guardian reports, citing French and Italian media.

This month’s Irish referendum saw 62% of voters coming out in favor of marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

[Guardian]

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Gets a Custom Jersey From the Harlem Globetrotters

Pope Francis smiles as he plays with a ball next to a member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team during the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Giampiero Sposito—Reuters Pope Francis smiles as he plays with a ball next to a member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team during the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 6, 2015.

He isn't the first Pope to hang out with the Globetrotters

The Harlem Globetrotters have a new star: Pope Francis.

Members of the exhibition basketball team presented the Pope with a custom jersey, showing the name “Pope Francis” and the number 90, on Wednesday at the Vatican, according to reports.

Team members showed off a few moves for the public waiting for an audience with the Pope before their own meeting.

Pope Francis isn’t the first Pope to hang out with the Globetrotters, who are in Italy as part of an international tour. Pope John Paul II met the team in 2000.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis and Raul Castro to Meet at the Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.
Vincenzo Pinto—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis smiles as he arrives to lead his open-air weekly audience in St. Peter's square on April 29, 2015 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis will receive Cuba’s president Raúl Castro at the Vatican on Sunday morning, May 10, the Holy See announced on Tuesday. The meeting will be “strictly private,” according to a statement from the Holy See Press Office, and the two heads of state will meet in the study of the Paul VI Audience Hall.

The meeting comes as Pope Francis plans to visit the Caribbean island in September en route to the United States. The pontiff also helped to broker a deal easing relations between the United States and Cuba in December, an appeal that a senior U.S. administration official at the time called “very rare.”

“As we already know, President Raúl Castro has publicly thanked the Pope for his role in fostering the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States of America,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in the statement.

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Calls for Equal Pay for Women and Men

He says gender-based pay disparities are "pure scandal"

Pope Francis expressed support for equal pay for men and women on Wednesday, calling income disparities “pure scandal.”

Speaking during his weekly general audience, Francis asked that Christians “become more demanding” about achieving gender equality, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“Why is it expected that women must earn less than men?” he asked the crowd at St. Peter’s Square. “No! They have the same rights. The disparity is a pure scandal.”

The Pope emphasized that concern for women’s equality isn’t at odds with concern for declining marriage rates around the world, a shift he said Christians needed to reflect on “with great seriousness.”

“Many consider that the change occurring in these last decades may have been set in motion by women’s emancipation,” he said. But Francis called that idea “an insult” and “a form of chauvinism that always wants to control the woman.”

[NCR]

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