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Both Catholics, Non-Catholics Applaud Pope For Bold Remarks On Climate Change


Some Catholics today say the Pope should stay out of what they consider to be a strictly political issue, not a moral one. But others around the country are welcoming the call by Pope Francis for people of all faiths to better protect the environment. NPR's David Schaper has been getting reaction.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: In the pope's highly anticipated encyclical, he dives right in to the bitter political debate over climate change, and many people, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, are applauding the pontiff.

ALEX KUVYCHUDZA: It's excellent. I agree, Pope, yeah. Amen, you know? I mean, just, yeah.

SCHAPER: Alex Kuvychudza (ph) is a mail carrier in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.

KUVYSHUDZA: It's high time to clean up our mess, you know, on the planet. We need to do something about our own home to diminish the consumption and just be a little bit smart about our own dwelling.

SCHAPER: And Boston College graduate student Nathan Nesbitt agrees, especially with the Pope's harsh assessment that the world is being turned into an immense pile of filth. And he says the Pope's words will add a moral boost to environmentally conscious Catholics like him.

NATHAN NESBITT: This gives us a very sure foot to say this is very much explicitly part of your values if you are Catholic, especially if you're Jesuit because he's a Jesuit pope.

SCHAPER: In Chicago, some other Catholics agree Pope Francis is right to speak out about the environment.

EMILIO GARCERA: Well, I think so because it's for the good of the people, you know?

SCHAPER: Emilio Garcera is waiting for the bus after morning mass at Saint Benedict Church on Chicago's North Side. He says if the Pope states that it's a moral imperative to protect the Earth, then so be it.

GARCERA: If you pray, then perhaps there will be changes in the world, especially now that there are lots of troubles going on for all of the Earth.

SCHAPER: After morning mass, on the playground across the street from Queen of Angels parish, 55-year-older Georgina Garcia admits she was first taken aback to hear pope Francis speak out about climate change.

GEORGINA GARCIA: It is rare for me to hear a pope to say that. I mean, never heard that before.

SCHAPER: But Garcia agrees there is cause for concern about the environment, and she says she knows the pope will be criticized for it.

GARCIA: I like this pope, so I will follow him. And whatever, you know, other people say is OK with them, that's OK. But for me, I will follow.

NANCY BLAIR: My name is Nancy Blair, and I'm 64. And I'm here at the park with my granddaughter.

SCHAPER: Blair says she's very worried about climate change.

BLAIR: We're ruining the planet, and we're going to pay for it in the long run. As they say, our children will.

SCHAPER: And though she's not Roman Catholic, Blair says she's thrilled to hear the pope speak out.

BLAIR: Yes because he should be concerned for the welfare of people.

SCHAPER: Outside of the Roman Catholic Basilica in Washington, D.C., Barbara and Raymond Helmuth of College Park, Maryland note that what makes this pope so popular is that he feels what other people feel.

BARBARA HELMUTH: He's also a human being, and he can express his views on anything.

RAYMOND HELMUTH: Doesn't mean he's right.

B. HELMUTH: No, it doesn't.

R. HELMUTH: But it doesn't mean he's wrong.

SCHAPER: But some Catholics say Pope Francis is crossing the line by stepping into what is a political debate over climate change.

DORINDA LEGINDER: I don't believe in global warming. I respect the pope's position on it, but I do not believe in it.

SCHAPER: 47-year-old Dorinda Leginder is heading into the basilica for the noontime mass.

LEGINDER: It's just nature, you know? And it doesn't matter what I think or anyone else thinks. God controls the entire world.

SCHAPER: But regardless of whether they agree or not, Roman Catholics are bound by their faith to accept the teaching of the pope in this encyclical. Whether they follow it in practice, as with many other church teachings, will ultimately be up to them. David Schaper, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
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