LIMA, Peru - Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on ecology and
climate is expected to send a strong moral message - one
message that could make some readers uncomfortable, some
"The encyclical will address the issue of inequality in the
distribution of resources and topics such as the wasting of
food and the irresponsible exploitation of nature and the
consequences for people's life and health," Archbishop Pedro
Barreto Jimeno of Huancayo, Peru, told Catholic News Service.
"Pope Francis has repeatedly stated that the environment is
not only an economic or political issue, but is an
anthropological and ethical matter," he said. "How can you
have wealth if it comes at the expense of the suffering and
death of other people and the deterioration of the
The encyclical, to be published June 18, is titled "Laudato
Sii" ("Praised Be"), the first words of St. Francis'
"Canticle of the Creatures."
Although Archbishop Barreto was not involved in the drafting
of the encyclical, he worked closely with then-Cardinal Jorge
Bergoglio in 2007 on a document by the Latin American
bishops' council that included an unprecedented section on
The encyclical is not expected to be a theological treatise
or a technical document about environmental issues, but a
pastoral call to change the way people use the planet's
resources so they are sufficient not only for current needs,
but for future generations, observers said.
The document "will emphasize that the option for stewardship
of the environment goes hand in hand with the option for the
poor," said Carmelite Father Eduardo Agosta Scarel, a climate
scientist who teaches at the Pontifical Catholic University
of Argentina and the National University of La Plata in
"I think the pope wants us to become aware of this," said
Father Agosta, who was involved in preparatory consultations
about the encyclical. "He is aiming at a change of heart.
What will save us is not technology or science. What will
save us is the ethical transformation of our society."
The pontiff probably foreshadowed the encyclical during his
first public Mass as pope on March 19, 2013, Father Agosta
said. In his homily, he said, "Let us be 'protectors' of
creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature,
protectors of one another and of the environment."
Although the document will be published in the wake of a
seminar on climate change in April at the Vatican, it will
not be limited to that issue and will probably focus on the
relationship between people and their environment, Archbishop
"What the pope brings to this debate is the moral dimension,"
said Anthony Annett, climate change and sustainable
development adviser to the Earth Institute at Columbia
University and to the nonprofit Religions for Peace. "His
unique way of looking at the problem, which is deeply rooted
in Catholic social teaching, resonates with people all across
Annett called the timing of the encyclical "extremely
A month after it is published, global representatives will
meet at a conference on financing for development in Addis
In September, the pope will address the United Nations at a
session that is likely to see the approval of a new set of
global development objectives, the Sustainable Development
Goals, which include environmental criteria.
And in December, negotiators and world leaders will converge
on Paris to finish hammering out a treaty aimed at reducing
the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global
Some politicians have already questioned the pope's
credentials for wading into the issue of climate change, but
that is only one of several environmental problems the pope
is likely to address, said David Kane, a Maryknoll lay
missioner in Joao Pessoa, Brazil, who works with Maryknoll's
The pope has spoken out in the past on the "throwaway
culture, both of material goods that we buy and use for a few
months and then throw out, and also throwaway people," he
Kane hopes the encyclical will help people understand that
overusing resources, from forests to fish to water, results
in scarcity that can both increase and be exacerbated by
climate change. He expects Pope Francis will remind people of
the responsibility of caring for God's creation.
"Whether you think climate change is a problem or not, you
cannot deny that running out of fish, oil, water and other
resources is a really big problem. The solution is a radical
change in our concept of what makes a person happy. We need
to move away from the idea that the more things we have, the
happier we'll be," Kane said.
Archbishop Barreto expects some controversy once people read
the document, because resisting the "throwaway culture" by
being satisfied with less means "putting money at the service
of people, instead of people serving money."
"(The encyclical) will have many critics, because they want
to continue setting rules of the game in which money takes
first place," he said. "We have to be prepared for those
kinds of attacks."
Check out this video from Catholic News Service
Ahead of the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical on the
environment, experts reflect on the history and significance
of the church's role in promoting the stewardship of