COLUMBUS – Pope Francis’ whirlwind trip to the United States is over, but some environmental advocates expect his message of environmental protection will continue to resonate.
Echoing the sentiments of a climate encyclical released in June, the pope asserted that mankind has no authority to abuse the environment, and urged action to halt the destruction of Earth.
Greg Hitzhusen, an Ohio State University professor and board chair of Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, says Francis is breathing new life into the appreciation of what faith-based perspectives can bring to conversations around the environment.
“They are an essential partner along with good science, and with good policy, and with other good social institutions all playing their role, faith communities have a role to play alongside those,” he says. “Working together is going to be more successful than each group working in isolation.”
Some critical of the encyclical say the pope should stay away from science.
But Hitzhusen says Francis’ message is that people from all backgrounds and perspectives can learn from each other as they work to address the challenges of this day and age.
Hitzhusen maintains people are taking the pope’s words to heart because he’s an influential moral voice.
He adds that Francis speaks in a manner of both encouragement and challenge, inspiring the world to put politics aside and work together for the better good.
“He’s elevating the dialogue and the interest in these genuine issues that do concern us all, whether that’s issues around the environment or paying attention to the excluded, and bringing greater solidarity and friendship, if you will, to the world,” Hitzhusen says.
Francis spoke of the environment before both Congress and the United Nations during his visit. Hitzhusen says he provided a hopeful direction that encourages people to better understand their role in protecting the environment, and in seeking justice for the poor and vulnerable.
“If we take that seriously and really listen to one another and really reflect more carefully on our own lives, that almost automatically invites us to think about changes that we might incorporate and integrate into the ways we live now,” Hitzhusen states.