Bishops urge Trump to honor Paris climate pact to protect the planet


States has an obligation to honor the Paris climate agreement to protect
“our people and our planet” and “mitigate the worst impacts of
climate change,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on
International Justice and Peace.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops “is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst
impacts of climate change,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico,
said in a June 1 statement.

Pope Francis’ encyclical letter
“Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” was timed, he said,
“to urge the nations of the world to work together in Paris for an
agreement that protects our people and our planet. We hope the United States
will honor the commitment it made there.”

Trump was expected to announce
his decision about exiting the Parish climate accord later in the afternoon of
June 1.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect
of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Integral Development of People, told
reporters in Washington May 31 that “the decision to possibly pull out for
us is something we hoped would not have happened.”

issues should be taken out of the political discussion and not be politicized.
… The truth is, climate is
a global public good and not limited to any country, not limited to any nation,”
the cardinal said.

“The Vatican would always respect the decision of a
sovereign state,” Cardinal Turkson added.”We will continue to still talk about
climate change and all of that, and hope that some change can occur midstream.”

News reports said that members
of Trump’s administration had differing opinions about the pact, with some
siding with the president’s earlier expressed opinion that the United States
should not be party to the agreement, which was ratified by President Barack
Obama on his own, bypassing the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was
among those said to disagree with any decision to exit the accord.

Bishop Cantu’s statement was
released by the USCCB along with copies of letters sent weeks earlier to
Tillerson, Treasure Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Security Advisor H.R.
McMaster. The letters were signed by Bishop Cantu; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of
Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human
Development; and Sean L. Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief
Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.

“Today, we write about our
shared obligation to care for the environment. The Judeo-Christian tradition
has always understood ‘the environment’ to be a gift from God,” they wrote
in the letters urging the Trump administration officials in their respective
capacities to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Paris accord.

“Pope Francis called on the
world’s leaders to come together to protect the gift of our common home. … We
have one common home, and we must protect it,” they said.

“We want to reaffirm the
importance of U.S. leadership and urge continued commitment to the Paris
agreement,” the Catholic leaders said, noting that in 2015 the USCCB
“affirmed that funding for climate change related adaptation and
mitigation programs as part of the Paris agreement is urgently needed if we are
to meet our common and differentiated responsibilities for the effects of
climate change.”

The Paris accord has been
ratified by 134 of the 197 countries that approved it in December 2015 under
the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The agreement went into force
in October after enough countries ratified it.

“If Donald Trump really
decides to withdraw the United States from the Paris accords, it will be a
disaster for everyone,” said Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of
the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social

The bishop and the academies are
at the forefront of promoting scientific studies on climate change and
implementation of the recommendations in Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato
Si'” on care for the environment. The pope gave Trump a copy of the
document when they met May 24 at the Vatican.

In an interview June 1 with the
Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Bishop Sanchez said he did not think Trump and Pope
Francis discussed climate change in any depth when they met, however climate
change was a significant part of the discussions the president and top staff
members had with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

“In that sense, if he
really does what the leaks suggest, for us it will be a huge slap in the
face,” the bishop said.

Obama deserves some of the
blame, the bishop said, because “he took decisions on climate only through
presidential orders, leaving open the possibility that his successor would
change everything. That’s the problem. Today, in just one day, Trump could
change all the cards on the table to the disadvantage of many and to the
advantage of the oil lobby.”

Tillerson participated in
Trump’s meeting with Cardinal Parolin and told reporters that while climate
change did not come up in Trump’s meeting with the pope, they had “a good
exchange on the climate change issue” with the cardinal.

“The cardinal was
expressing their view that they think it’s an important issue,” Tillerson
said shortly after the meeting. “I think they were encouraging continued
participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange on the difficulty
of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and
ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people
jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy.”

Asked how Trump responded to
Cardinal Parolin’s encouragement to stick with the Paris climate agreement,
Tillerson said: “The president indicated we’re still thinking about that,
that he hasn’t made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin
and also told Prime Minister (Paolo) Gentiloni that this is something that he
would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It’s an
opportunity to hear from people. We’re developing our own recommendation on
that. So it’ll be something that will probably be decided after we get

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Dennis Sadowski in Washington
and Cindy Wooden in Rome contributed to this story.

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