Shyama Venkateswar Distinguished Lecturer, Hunter College and Director, Public Policy Program, Roosevelt House

Posted on September 25, 2015 · Posted in Frank Friday

In a highly anticipated visit, Pope Francis spoke yesterday at a joint meeting of Congress and urged them to cast aside their bitter partisan divides and step up to address the world’s most urgent priorities. Using his moral authority, the Pope spoke widely about the pressing need to address the very real threat of climate change, our obligation to show more compassion towards immigrants, and the goal to strive towards world peace.

Earlier in the year, Pope Francis issued a 184-page encyclical entitled Laudato Si,” or “Praise Be to You” to highlight the crisis posed by climate change. Pointing to the exploitation and destruction of the environment, the pursuit of profits above all else, and a lack of leadership, the document is an indictment of global consumerism and reckless development. He argued that the poorest and the most vulnerable in the world are the true victims of the world’s disregard of the environment; they are dislocated and rendered voiceless in the pursuit of materialism. The Pope’s radical writing called for new kinds of leadership, a change in our collective lifestyles, and a transformation of the nature of the global economy.

Whether in his United Nations General Assembly speech or to our elected representatives in Washington, the Pope’s message is clear: combating inequality and injustice and taking care of our planet are the key issues that must be addressed by world leaders.

Is the Pope our best steward for environmental and social justice? Can his challenge to Congress and the United Nations have an impact on our dependency on fossil fuels and the breakdown of safety nets all over the world? Is the current pope’s version of Liberation Theology finally an opportunity for the world to pay more attention to the question of a larger public good?

The writing and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute or Hunter College.