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60-Second Earth

Can a Pope Change the World?

New Pope Francis I called for protecting the environment, but it remains to be seen how that might happen. David Biello reports

There are more than a billion baptized Catholics in the world who count themselves within the flock of the pope. So when a new pope talks up the environment, it might signal a real change.

In the Mass that made Francis the new pope, he called for "respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live."

The new pope takes his very name from a medieval saint known for his love of nature. Saint Francis of Assisi renounced an earthly fortune, founded the Franciscan order of monks and preached to birds. For Catholics, he's the patron saint of the environment.

If the Church goes green, it could have a real impact. It's both one of the largest property owners on the planet and it can marshal significant numbers of people to achieve social goals.

Of course, the greatest green action that Pope Francis could take is to embrace family planning. Empowering women to determine family size, among other things, is a big environmental boon. The new pope’s namesake called the world’s organisms our “brother and sister creatures.” We’ll see what Pope Francis does for the rest of the family.  

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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