For faith-based environmental activists, Pope Francis’s visit to the United States had a major effect even before he set foot on American soil. Now they hope his trip’s influence on their cause will reverberate long after he’s gone.
The Pope’s visit to America took place just months after issuing his encyclical on the environment, encourages Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, founder and president of Interfaith Power & Light. “To have Pope Francis come out and bring this message from such a powerful, moral foundation of the world has given us a tremendous boost.”
“This is really bringing communities together,” said Susannah Tuttle, director of NC Interfaith Power and Light, a program of the NC Council of Churches and state-affiliate to a national network leading the moral responsibility message to protect the environment. “It’s just so exciting. It’s like waking up and getting to talk about issues like a changing climate from a place of opportunity, hope and resilient response.”
The hope is that preachers in various faith traditions have openly received Pope Francis’ message and will begin speaking preaching about a moral duty to confront climate change. “Some faith leaders been afraid to get into the pulpit and talk about something that is seen as a political issue,” Rev. Bingham said. “But the pope has given them the opportunity and the responsibility to now speak about it from the pulpit. So I see it as a really big change-maker.”
On the governmental front, Rev. Bingham notes that Congress has 137 Catholics. She hopes many will hear the Holy Father and be moved to action. “Perhaps they need to look at this from a moral perspective rather than a political one, maybe they can step outside of the party line and do the right thing.”
Throughout the week of the Pope Francis’ U.S. visit, North Carolina faith communities united in support of clean energy and to heed the papal call to act on climate change. Vigils and activities organized through the network of NC Interfaith Power & Light were held in Raleigh, Greensboro, Morehead City, Asheville and Durham.
Organizers hope such events will build momentum for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, which begins Nov. 30 in Paris. Delegations will discuss whether their nations can commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by certain amounts in years ahead.