Pope Francis called for a revolution Thursday: a transformation of politics and economies, in what he described as an urgent need to address climate change.
In a high-level Papal teaching document known as an encyclical, Pope Francis particularly criticized human activity and industry in wealthy nations for endangering ecosystems. He suggested that consumption and the pursuit of corporate profits often come at the expense of poorer nations.
"We’re all in this together," Vermont’s Roman Catholic Bishop, Christopher Coyne, told necn, echoing Pope Francis’s plea for the environment. "The question for us right now is, 'What kind of world are we going to leave our children and grandchildren?'"
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who is also a presidential candidate, praised the Pope for pushing for bold action on what Sanders called a "planetary crisis."
"Pope Francis’ powerful message on climate change should change the debate around the world and become a catalyst for the bold actions needed to reverse global warming," Sanders said in a written statement. "The pope helps us all see how those with the least among us will fare the worst from the consequences of climate change. I very much appreciate that the Republican leadership has invited the pope to address Congress. I hope they listen to what he has to say. Denying the science related to climate change is no longer acceptable."
Another presidential candidate, Republican Jeb Bush, said he remains skeptical of blending faith and global affairs. Bush joined several other Republicans this week in saying that issues involving economic policy and environmental regulation should not be influenced by religion.
"I respect the Pope," Bush said. "I think he's an incredible leader. But I think it's better to solve this problem in the political realm."
Bishop Coyne said he is taking small steps of his own that could help the planet, like not letting hot water run so long as his shower warms up in his old home, or drinking a glass of tap water instead of from a disposable plastic bottle.
Coyne urged others to seek out the Pope’s document, consider it, and to evaluate their own actions as they pertain to the environment. "It’s going to add up to a lot of good," Coyne said, describing the result of many individuals changing their actions.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, also issued a written statement about the Pope’s encyclical, calling it "strong" and "principled."
"The status quo is always the easy path. Unfortunately, many in Congress–and many leaders in other lands–have preferred to ignore or even deny the clear evidence of these threats to civilization," Leahy’s statement read. "The earlier we take seriously these warnings and this evidence, and act on them, the more success we will have in addressing them, while at the same time growing our economy here at home by developing and deploying clean, smart and renewable energy resources."