New Pope, same priorities | The Keelen Group
New Pope, same priorities

A recent story by Tim Wall, a contributing writer to the, titled “Is the New Pope Green?”[i] examines behaviors and statements the new pontiff has made leading many to believe the Pope will be a powerful advocate for environmental causes.

As an observant Catholic who has spent time on sustainability and alternative energy causes, I’m happy to see kudos offered to the leader of my church, particularly with regard to these issues.

The documented actions and statements of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, indicate that he has lived his life in a way that is mindful of the impact his actions have on the earth and others. 

While every Pope faces different challenges and focuses on different priorities, non-Catholics should understand that with Francis, little has actually changed. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a comprehensive document that uses the Bible and other sacred writings to explain official Church teaching, instructs believers to respect “mineral, vegetable, and animal resources.”  Doing so is a moral obligation for our brothers and sisters living now and for “generations to come”, (Catholic Church 2456).  

In other words, we have always been called to respect our world and our resources. 

So what is different?  Not much, since these teachings have been codified in the CCC for some time; but Cardinal Bergoglio has been a public figure for many years, and his actions are followed closely by others.       

Mr. Wall points out that in public the Cardinal frequently stressed the importance of protecting the environment.  He also did his part to use less energy (often riding in subways or using other forms of public transportation).

Other articles have documented Bergoglio's habit of confining himself to minimally accommodated rooms or apartments even when he had access to lavish mansions.  This is a trend that will remain during his pontificate.  The BBC reported that Francis will occupy a small two-room residence over the grand papal apartment used for more than a century by other Popes. [ii]

Bergoglio is hardly alone among his predecessors for doing right by the environment.  Pope Benedict XVI installed solar panels on the roof of a Vatican auditorium.  He also penned an encyclical letter criticizing the “hoarding of non-renewable energy” (Benedict XVI CARITAS IN VERITATE 49) and called for developed nations to reduce energy consumption. Benedict even used an electric car at his summer residence.

Mr. Wall notes that John Paul II also made a number or declarations in favor of a responsible engagement of Catholics towards protection and respect for creation. 

In taking the name Francis, the new Pope aligned himself with a saint who cared deeply for the plight of the poor and had a special affinity for the natural world.  As Cardinal, Bergoglio's humble life proved not only to be good for the soul, but the environment. 

In his new role as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis is both a leader and a teacher.  As a leader, he has done what all great leaders do – inspire by example. 

As a teacher, he will remind us of the lessons we need to learn and why.  We, the students, must now apply them in practice. 

Bud DeFlaviis