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Environment & Energy

Bishop Zubik Urges Pittsburghers To Be 'Mindful Of Their Impact On Environment'

Pittsburgh-area Catholics can expect to hear about a topic this Sunday that is not usually the focus of their pastors’ homilies — the environment.

On Thursday, Pope Francis issued a teaching document laying out his theological argument on the imperative to curb climate change and protect the environment.

Francis framed climate change as an urgent moral issue in his encyclical, “Laudato Si’ (Praised Be),” and blamed global warming on an unfair, fossil fuel-based industrial model that harms the most poor.

Bishop David Zubik, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said he sent information to all the pastors and he’s urged them to talk about the pope’s message.

“We know that people are going to be confused by it and here are some questions and answers that you might want to share with your people," Zubik said. "I hope that do that.”

The document is a blunt criticism of big business and climate change and encourages changes in domestic politics and everyday life at the United Nations Climate Change Conference that begins Nov. 30 in Paris.

"It is not enough to balance, in the medium-term, the protection of nature with financial gain or the preservation of the environment with progress," Francis writes. "Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress."

The energy lobby was quick to criticize the encyclical’s anti-fossil fuel message.

"The simple reality is that energy is the essential building block of the modern world," said Thomas Pyle of the Institute of Energy Research, a conservative free-market group. "The application of affordable energy makes everything we do — food production, manufacturing, health care, transportation, heating and air conditioning — better."

Bishop Zubik is calling for “respectful dialogue and prudent action” to protect the environment.

“If people are really and truly engaging in a discussion that you disagree with somebody, if you are at least open to what someone else has to say, your opinion at least has to be challenged and perhaps changed," he said.

Zubik said the pope’s message is not just for Catholics but should be considered by all area residents.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful corners of the world," he said. "We must do our part to care for creation.”