In an encyclical delivered Thursday, the pope demanded action to save the planet from an environmental cataclysm. He firmly gave his backing to scientists who say that the current climate disaster is man-made.
Pope Francis on Thursday issued an encyclical - usually, an open letter to his bishops - publicly supporting the theory of man-made climate change, and urging immediate action to halt the on-going disaster.
The pope, as spiritual leader to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, often consults with heads of state and other figures of power. To many, he is considered to possess a great deal of wisdom - Pope Francis, especially, has been very well-respected in the two years of his position and his popularity continues to grow.
This does not mean that people, Catholics included, will not disagree with him, and the encyclical has had its share of supporters and decriers.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama praised the pope, saying he made the case "clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position." Political conservatives spoke out against it - Republican Senator Jim Inhofe said the message "will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest... tax increase in our nation's history."
The 183-page document begins with a reference to Saint Francis of Assisi, the pope's namesake. Saint Francis, among others, was the patron saint of animals and the environment; in stories he is depicted as an ascetic monk, and a friend of birds. Looking at the saint's work, and Pope Francis' choice of name, it seems clear that this issue is something the pope has wanted to speak of for some time.
The pope's declaration comes on the heels of his condemnations of capitalism, especially from earlier this year. For Pope Francis, a sustainable environment and our current economic model cannot co-exist, though some disagree. Certainly, the encyclical itself is condemning of those with power, both political and material. Says Francis, "...those who possess... economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms."
Pope Francis' hope is that the world heed his words - and that may be an achievable dream. For decades, scientists, journalist and politicians have all urged immediate action on the environment, with some successes and many failures to show for it. A spiritual leader, however - not to mention one with nearly 1.2 billion Catholic followers on the planet, and many more listeners - may reach people in a way previous activists couldn't.
Is this the push the world has been needing? Is it all too little, too late?
The pope says rescuing the environment is now a religious and human duty. What do you think?
In an earlier version of this post, I wrote incorrectly about 'infallibility,' and have since removed the paragraph in question.