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Leaked Encyclical Highlights Growing Resistance To Pope's Reform Agenda


Tomorrow, Pope Francis will release his much-anticipated encyclical on the environment and the dangers of climate change. But a draft of that encyclical was leaked to the press days ahead of time, and speculation is boiling over who might be behind the leak. Was it someone trying to embarrass the Pope? Is there a power struggle within the Vatican? NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Rome following all this. And Slyvia, first, who published this draft in the first place?

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Well, he's a veteran Vatican correspondent - Sandro Magister of the weekly L'espresso. He put it on his website Monday afternoon, violating the Vatican press office's embargo until tomorrow of the encyclical. Then, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, posted a note on the press office wall sharply criticizing Magister for publishing the leak which, he said, had caused great turmoil. And his press pass was yanked.

Now, this is where the story gets a little more complicated because Magister is not just any old Vatican correspondent. He writes a widely followed blog, and he is an openly conservative critic of Pope Francis and his reform agenda. He recently wrote several blogs criticizing people he said had inspired Francis in writing the encyclical, accusing them of being supporters of abortion.

And he had a rather tongue-in-cheek tone, Magister did, in his introduction to this leak. This is what he wrote. Quote, "all of a sudden, the encyclical appeared in its entirety on the screen in front of the author of this blog. Who knows from where it popped up? So I accompanied it with a few lines of presentation to introduce her to society in the manner she deserves," unquote.

BLOCK: In the manner she deserves - well, that raises all sorts of questions, Sylvia, about who would have an interest in leaking this encyclical to this publication.

POGGIOLI: Well, it's no secret that there's a growing resistance within the Vatican bureaucracy, known as the Roman Curia, to Francis's reform agenda, especially after he made a scathing critique of the Curia last December. He described a list of sins, such as the terrorism of gossip, the pathology of power and worst of all, a spiritual Alzheimer's. So the thinking among many Vatican analysts is that by leaking the document, tomorrow's big rollout of the Vatican will be anti-climactic. And, you know, Francis has made it very clear that he hopes that this encyclical will have a major impact on the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, so whoever's behind the leak, analysts say, probably wanted to blow the wind out of the pope's sails.

BLOCK: And the encyclical, Sylvia, if the draft is any indication, is quite strong with Pope Francis's views about human activity contributing to climate change, our responsibility for the planet. What do you expect the reaction to be, broadly, within the Catholic Church?

POGGIOLI: Well, I think they'll be divided, although many polls, certainly in the United States, show that most Catholics do agree that global warming is a problem. The strongest criticism and much of the loudest criticism has come long before the papal document was released. And it's coming from conservatives, especially in the United States, including several Republican presidential candidates who are Catholic. You know, it's no secret. Francis has said this many times. He believes climate change is mostly man-made. He blames much of the global warming on the industrialized North for its use of fossil fuels and excessive consumerism - what he calls the throwaway culture whose primary victims are the poor. And statements like that are causing a lot of alarm and anger among climate change skeptics.

BLOCK: OK. Sylvia, thank you so much.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli in Rome. We were talking about the pope's encyclical on climate change that's to be officially released tomorrow. And we'll hear more from Sylvia then. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
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