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Awaiting ecology encyclical, Catholic groups prepare for pope's message


Men collect fuel oil from rocks April 23 following an oil spill along Veneguera beach in Spain's Canary Islands. Few papal encyclicals have been as eagerly awaited as Pope Francis' upcoming statement on the environment. (CNS photo/Borja Suarez, Reuters)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Few papal encyclicals have been as eagerly awaited as Pope Francis' upcoming statement on the environment.

While no date other than early summer for its release has been announced, anticipation is building among Catholics as well as non-Catholics and advocates for the environment. Based on the pope's past statements, they expect the document will call people to protect human life and dignity through greater appreciation and preservation of God's creation.

What Pope Francis is expected to say has its roots in God's creation of the world, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, told the First Friday Forum of Lorain County in Elyria, Ohio, in early April.

"Pope Francis is first a priest and a pastor," Misleh explained. "He is a Catholic Christian who is reflecting on and articulating the best of our tradition.

"Let us remind ourselves that our creation care tradition goes back to Genesis, not Earth Day. Let us remind ourselves that this ancient teaching is the teaching that was familiar, too, and articulated in new ways by Jesus Christ, reinforced by the witness of St. Francis, expounded upon by St. Thomas Aquinas as well as by St. John Paul and especially Pope Benedict, the 'green pope.'

"Let us remember that what Pope Francis is offering here and will offer in the encyclical is not new teaching, but a new application of that old teaching," Misleh said.

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