Sept. 22, 2015

Today Pope Francis alights at a New York airbase and sets out on a six-day, three-city U.S. tour. He comes no closer to Dallas-Fort Worth than Philadelphia, but North Texans are enthusiastically commemorating the visit, and not only with open-air live webcasts of his Sunday afternoon Mass. For environmentalists and just plain folks with concerns for the health and safety of humans and other life on Earth amid pollution, resource depletion and climate change, his visit is momentous.

Pope Francis’ address to the U.S. Congress Thursday at 9 a.m. CDT will make it the biggest bully pulpit for these issues in the world. The frank views and science knowledge that informed his June message to the world on the environment, the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si, are fueling anticipation. 

Local groups continue information campaigns to inform Congress, media and the public. One in Fort Worth will host a post-address "Pope Potluck" – home cooking with a side of commentary from Catholic scholars.

The entire U.S. Congress received printed copies of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical, courtesy of Citizens' Climate Lobby, the grassroots climate-action advocacy group. 

"We spent two days in Washington delivering 535 copies of the Pope's encyclical to Congress, so they can read it for themselves," says Ricky Bradley of Dallas, who heads CCL’s North Texas chapter.  "They won't have to rely on what other people say it says, as often happens in Congress."

Citizens Climate Lobby trains volunteers to engage elected officials, the media and the public on national climate policies. The goal is to create political will to support “carbon fee and dividend,” an economic mechanism to price petroleum products at their true total cost and return the additional profits generated to fuel buyers. 

The group also sent an encyclical copy to every local congressional office. North Texas members put in a long Saturday writing letters in response to media requests and offering op-ed pieces for publication.

"The most effective action people can take is to contact members of Congress – call, write, go in person. They're only hearing from industry and paid lobbyists.”  

Citizen communication to representatives in 11 Republican districts in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida "made a difference," says Bradley. As a result, the first Republican-sponsored resolution in favor of action on climate change was signed on Sept. 17, led by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY.) 

"Seldom does any Pope make a statement on climate," says Rev. Sam Brannon of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy. "We're taking that one and moving with it."  

The Austin-based organization describes itself as “providing theologically grounded public policy analysis for people of faith and other Texans.” Texas Interfaith Power & Light the environmental program wing of Texas Interfaith Center, will follow the event with “Pope and Potluck.”

"We'll have speakers, potluck and community building Thursday at 6 p.m.,” says Yaira Robinson, associate director of Texas Interfaith Center. "People of any and all and no faiths are invited."   

Mary Jo Kaska, PhD, Biblical scholar, and Rita Cotterly, PhD, retired, are scheduled to give Catholic perspectives in response to the Pope’s Congressional address.

In June, Pope Francis’ 184-page encyclical made history. Papal encyclicals are considered to be authoritative instruction on Roman Catholic doctrine for believers, of whom there are now 2.2 billion worldwide (Pew Forum.) The encyclical is entitled Laudato Si, or "Praise Be to You," honoring a same-titled verse by Francis’ namesake, St. Francis, patron of animals and nature. It contains no praise for human stewardship of the earth, reportedly. Sections quoted in public media contain scathing criticism for economic, governmental and corporate systems for recklessly consuming resources without regard for effects on human health and safety, plant and animal life, public costs or the present suffering of the world's poor – beset with rising food costs, crop failures and accelerating cycles of superstorms and flood.

What hope is offered for reversing this trend? People will be tuning in to CNN and attending potlucks and church to find out.



Pope and Potluck hosted by Fort Worth Interfaith Power & Light

When: Sept. 24, 6 p.m.

Where:  University Christian Church of Fort Worth, room 207

RSVP to: Sandra by Sept. 23 at [email protected]


10 key excerpts from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, from the Washington Post.

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