In genialen je zadnji stavek, ki izvira od Frančiška Asiškega, mojega idola iz mladosti, katerega ime si je nadel sedanji papež: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Upam, da mi ni treba razlagati pomena…
Indeed, it is difficult to identify serious public figures who have taken courageous stances on climate change and benefitted politically from doing so. Except for some legislators who were already in fairly safe electoral districts, there is not much evidence to suggest that taking political risks on climate can advance political ambition.
And then there was Francis.
It is entirely too soon to pass any final judgment on the impact of his encyclical and comments on climate change during his visit. Partisan political affiliation has long produced divides on this issue and will likely not disappear at any time soon.
Yet Francis frames climate change in a way we generally have not heard before, with two key elements.
First, there is a deep integration with core Christian and Roman Catholic teachings in the Gospels. The Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, is not an exercise in theory, theological twists, or spin. It draws early and often from Scripture, including many reflections from his Papal predecessors. His numerous critics clearly squirm when confronting this dimension of his message and never really engage it. Indeed, his visit is already a reminder that Americans rarely talk about issues of faith or policy, at least beyond circles that include folks with whom they totally agree.
Second, there is the humility factor. This very word has largely disappeared from American life, certainly in the public sphere. In the climate arena, this is often reflected in staged events, hyped rhetoric, and vilification of people who hold varied views. Francis’ words on this issue are as soft as his voice, but they are clear and focused. They lay out an imperative for engagement, convenient or not.
Perhaps that is part of the reason for the current outpouring of interest and affection, for the person and his message but also the way in which he delivers it. America is already a different place since his arrival but it is far too soon to know if the effects will be lasting, on climate change and much more.
But, for now, enjoy the ride with the fellow who would only travel in the back seat of a Fiat, even with sciatica and a bum knee. As the Pope’s namesake once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”