“It has been a very politicized topic,” Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces admitted to CNA Sept. 23 about the issues of environmental stewardship and climate change in the U.S.
Bishop Cantu chairs the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“I hope that Americans, by listening to the Holy Father, will realize that it’s not simply a political topic, it’s a moral one and a deeply moral one. This is creation that God has given to us to keep and to till,” he continued.
Bishop Cantú spoke with CNA shortly before Pope Francis celebrated Midday Prayer with the U.S. bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. Over 300 bishops, along with priests, seminarians, and other guests, prayed with Pope Francis and received an address from the Roman Pontiff encouraging them in their defense of human life and exhorting them to continue welcoming immigrants.
Earlier in the morning, Pope Francis had met with President Obama at the White House and the two addressed an estimated crowd of 20,000 gathered on the South Lawn. Pope Francis reminded Americans of the urgency to care for the environment.
“Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation,” the Pope said, citing his ecology encyclical Laudato Si’ published earlier this summer.
He also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., saying about care for the environment, “we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.”
Bishop Cantú acknowledged that some Americans might be reticent to talk about climate change, instead considering it a political issue. However, he insisted that the problem is a moral one and needs addressing right away.
“This is the only creation, the only planet that we have to hand on to our children and grandchildren, to future generations. And so what do we leave to them? That is deeply a moral question.”
“So if we can make the turn from a political to a moral issue, then we’ve done quite a bit.”
Earlier this week, the bishop joined Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami in welcoming a resolution introduced by 11 Republican congressmen calling for greater environmental stewardship.
The resolution came ahead of Pope Francis’ address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Thursday where the Pope is expected to mention, among other issues, the environment.
In the resolution, the representatives declared a duty to conserve the environment and warned of “a marked increase in extreme weather events” due to the changing climate.
This, combined with adverse effects of pollution upon local ecologies, such as asthma, mercury in fish, and “rising sea levels,” means action must be taken to study these changes and explore options that can be taken to mitigate their effect, the resolution added.
Bishop Cantú called it “a positive example for government leaders, heeding Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical Laudato Si’ to engage in positive dialogue to address what Pope Francis has called ‘one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day,’ climate change.”
“It is our hope that this modest first step opens the door to joining Democrat members of Congress who have been active in seeking conversation and solutions for the country and the world,” he added.