NEW YORK - Pope Francis has come out strongly in support of protecting "Mother Earth" from climate change. His eminence said that humanity's "reckless" behavior has pushed the planet to a perilous "breaking point." The global green community heartily welcomed the moment.
"Pope Francis is one of the most trusted men on the planet. When he comes out and talks about climate change it's huge," said Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, a New York-based nonprofit that defends and protects the Hudson River and the water supply of New York City in general. Gallay and scores of environmental advocates believe the pontiff's strong rebuke of energy companies, big business, and dismissive global politicians made him arguably the strongest non-partisan voice yet to enter the save-the-earth discussion.
"In the days after the pope's message on climate, people understand this isn't about some little issue that only people who are only environmentalists care about," Gallay said. "This is about communities. This is about public health and safety. Anybody in this area who went through Sandy has got to be thinking is this going to be something that happens again and maybe gets worse."
Still, some wondered if Pope Francis may have crossed the line between science and religion when declaring global warming to be real and something that the world needs to address.
Dr. Vincent Miller is a professor of theology and culture at the University of Dayton. He said critics who think the pope went too far perhaps don't understand religion at all.
"His point in engaging scientists is something more profound. He asks us to open ourselves to the best scientific arguments that are available as a way of attending to the truths of god's creation," Miller said. "To opening ourselves to what's going on in that creation and taking seriously our part in it."
It is a spiritual vision that some say has the pontiff being dubbed the first "green pope." And Gallay, amongst many others, feels "green" could soon be applied to other religious leaders as well.
"The pope's message to American Catholics is going well beyond that community," Gallay said. "People of all faiths are responding. Whether you're from a different Christian denomination or you're from the Jewish faith or you're Muslim. All the faiths are starting to rally behind the pope's leadership. And that's inspiring. That's inspiring."
As expected the pope's words on protecting the earth are already having a global impact. A number of green organizations are reporting upticks in membership and in funding.