Pope Francis to back climate change campaign

The Pope is preparing to publish an encyclical on climate change in an attempt to influence the debate on emissions.

A priest sprinkles holy water over a mass grave for Typhoon Haiyan victims during a commemoration ceremony in Tacloban. Pope Francis will visit in the spring.REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Pope Francis is expected to throw his weight behind those lobbying for national and international steps to be taken to combat global warming.

The encyclical will be published in the spring, after Pope Francis visits Tacloban in the Philippines, devastated by a typhoon three years ago, and is expected to urge the world's 1.2 billion Catholics to take individual action against climate change on moral and scientific grounds.

Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said: "The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion."

Delivering Cafod's annual Pope Paul VI lecture on Friday last week, Bishop Sorondo said the encyclical will come out in advance of "next year's crucial decisions". The faith leaders and other organisations will meet in New York in September ahead of a crucial UN meeting on climate change in Paris in November.

Bishop Sorondo, who like Pope Francis is from Argentina, told The Tablet: "The Pope is very aware that the consequences of climate change affect all people, but especially the poor. This is the moral consequence, the moral imperative."

Neil Thorns, head of advocacy at Cafod, told The Guardian: "The anticipation around Pope Francis's forthcoming encyclical is unprecedented. We have seen thousands of our supporters commit to making sure their MPs know climate change is affecting the poorest communities."

Opposition to his programme is expected from Vatican conservatives. Cardinal George Pell, in charge of the Vatican's budget and a climate change sceptic, has been criticised in the past for claiming that global warming has ceased.