NEW YORK — There will be prayer vigils and pilgrimages, policy briefings and seminars, and sermons in parishes from the U.S. to the Philippines.
When Pope Francis releases his much-anticipated teaching document on the environment and climate change in the coming weeks, a network of Roman Catholics will be ready. These environmental advocates — who work with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities and lay movements — have been preparing for months to help maximize the effect of the statement, hoping for a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.
"This is such a powerful moment," said Patrick Carolan, executive director of Franciscan Action Network, a Washington-based advocacy group formed by Franciscan religious orders. "We're asking ourselves, 'What would be the best way for us to support the faith community in getting this out and using it as a call to action?'"
Francis is issuing the encyclical by the end of June with an eye toward the end-of-year U.N. climate change conference in Paris. While previous popes have made strong moral and theological arguments in favor of environmental protection, Francis will be the first to address global warming in such a high-level teaching document.
The pope, who will address the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 25 when he visits the U.S., has said he wants the encyclical to be released in time to be read and absorbed before the Paris talks. Advocates are pressing for a binding, comprehensive agreement among nations to curb rising global temperatures, which scientists say are largely driven by carbon emissions.
"People are really putting a lot of weight on this," said Nancy Tuchman, director of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago. "I think the real hope is that he says it like it is and tells us there has to be a call to action and it has to be immediate."