Today, President Trump met Pope Francis for the first time, but the ocean of separation has not stopped the two from exchanging sharp words during the preceding year. While this was a time for building alliances on a formal world stage, the Pope still found a classy way to stand up for his values.
He gave Trump a gift.
Encyclicals are formal letters circulated by Popes to dictate the highest priorities of the church and set the tone for Catholic values and teaching. The Pope published his 192-page encyclical two years ago, establishing in no uncertain terms that combatting climate change is a moral imperative that we cannot afford to ignore.
By contrast, Trump has said “global warming was created by and for the Chinese,” removed climate change from his EPA’s website, and is traveling with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon — one of the environment’s worst offenders.
The gulf between the values of these men presented the Pope with a precarious situation. How to both respect the dignity of an encounter with the President of the United States and do right by his core values, which this President actively opposes.
Pope Francis found the perfect solution — subtle and respectful but unmistakeable.
This Pope is a prolific writer, and there can be no doubt that the gift is a deliberate — and much needed — challenge to the President’s reckless environmental stance. The Pontiff has made clear how he views the environment and those who refuse to safeguard it.
“Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity,” Pope Francis said two years ago. “Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”
Unlike Trump, the Pope is not merely calling names. With today’s gift, the Pope has issued a call to action for our president to abandon his cowardice and begin the work of protecting that common home — the planet.
Bravo to Pope Francis for showing courage where our president, so far, has failed.