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In advance of pope’s U.S. visit, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski touts climate agenda


Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said Pope Francis’ recent pronouncement on the environment is “a broad and deep” document, and one whose impact will emerge over time as Catholics worldwide come to understand it. 

Thomas Wenski
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Photo: Chris Adams)

“We’ll be unpacking its significance for years and decades to come,” Wenski said Wednesday in Washington.

As Catholics around the country prepare for the pope’s visit to the U.S. next week, prominent church leaders highlighted some of the key issues that have animated the pope’s efforts recently.

Speaking at a National Press Club event in Washington, Wenski talked a bit on U.S. politics and on immigration, as well as the significance of the pope’s travel from Cuba to the United States.

“He’s making an air bridge, if you will, between Cuba and the United States,” Wenski said. “The significance of just his coming here from Cuba is a gesture, which is going to speak volumes. . . . Look for those symbolic gestures.”

But most of his time was spent on the environment and the pope’s climate agenda.

“He’s not speaking as a scientist,” Wenski said. “He’s speaking as a pastor. He’s speaking as a moral leader. And anything that touches the human person has moral implications.”

Wenski was echoing comments he has made before. Even before the pope’s encyclical on the environment – a major pronouncement on an issue of importance to the church – Wenski had sounded the alarm on climate issues. In a February address in Washington, Wenski talked about how people can no longer ignore the visible signs of change already occurring in the environment. 

He previously joined in a letter to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, weighing in on a debate over carbon pollution standards.

The Wednesday event was designed to highlight the activities of the U.S. Catholic Church in response to the pope’s encyclical.

Wenski was joined by Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., and Carolyn Woo, president and chief executive of Catholic Relief Services.

Highlighting the pope’s views, Wenski talked of the “toxic effects of the throwaway culture.”

“So the pope is asking us to return to that simplicity, which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things,” he added.