“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

What should we make of the Pope and new polling numbers?

Pope Francis roared back into action today after last week’s Lenten retreat. Given that St. Mark’s account of the Transfiguration will be proclaimed this Sunday, it is telling that the Holy Father’s fiery words on tried-and-true business models coincided with encouraging poll numbers about American opinions on climate change.

The question is, what (or Who) are we giving credit for such positive activity?

The Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 66% of Americans believe world leaders must engage climate change. Almost three quarters of those surveyed also said they have a personal responsibility to do so. And just over three quarters expressed a favorable opinion of Pope Francis, with 29% giving him “very favorable” marks.

The poll, conducted in mid-February, questioned just over 2,400 Americans.

Co-operatives create "a ‘new type of economy’ that allows ‘people to grow in all their potential.’" Pope Francis

As Dan Misleh, Executive Director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said in his Tweet about these results, with Pope Francis “there is wind in our sails.”

Which brings us to today’s meeting of the Confederazione Cooperative Italiane at the Vatican's Paul VI auditorium. Vatican Radio reports that in his talk the Holy Father championed co-operatives as “the motor that uplifts and develops the weakest parts of our local communities and civil society.”

Given that so many people look to Pope Francis for international guidance on climate change and other ecological issues, his speech today offers clues as to what we should expect from him and, thus, from ourselves.

And so here’s more of the Pope’s remarks as summarized by Vatican Radio:

The first priority is to establish new co-operatives, while developing existing ones, so as to create new employment opportunities, especially among youth, he said.

Second, the Pope urged the co-op movement to be a “protagonist” in proposing new welfare solutions, particularly in the area of healthcare.

As a third point, he spoke of the economy and its relationship with social justice and human dignity.

The Pope later went on to say that co-operatives create “a ‘new type of economy’ that allows ‘people to grow in all their potential,’ socially and professionally, as well as in responsibility, hope and co-operation, he said. The Pope clarified that while he was not saying income growth is not important, it certainly ‘is not enough.’”

The Holy Father said much more that you should take the time to read, including underscoring the value of the co-operative movement to help women, families, and thus the development of all society.

Importantly, what Pope Francis was saying was not just his opinion or some pie-eyed economic theory. He was talking to actual co-op leaders from across Italy. And clearly, they are succeeding at a business model that by any account is greener and more celebratory of human dignity than many global business practices at work today.

You know something is going when three-quarters of those polled say that they have a responsibility to do something about climate change at the same time as the Successor of St. Peter is revving his rhetoric about what Paul VI referred to as integral human development.

And there you have it. In a recognition of co-operatives you hear and see Pope Francis’s vision for an economic model that elevates the human person and the human family. He also used in his talk his now-iconic term “a culture of waste.” In other words, he is continuing to link social, economic, and ecological visions so that the world can operate a lot better than how it chugs and coughs along today.

That the Holy Father’s business preferenes are imbued with moral duties resonates with the Rueters/Ipsos poll of Americans. You know something is going when three-quarters of those polled say that they have a responsibility to do something about climate change at the same time as the Successor of St. Peter is revving his rhetoric about what Paul VI referred to as integral human development.

Is this all coincidence? Or the result of scientific education, politicking, and the campaign dollars of advocacy groups? Perhaps a little of them all. But let’s not forget the prayers of the faithful.

For years now, popes, bishops, and many in the laity have been adding ecological petitions to their respective areas of ascetic influence. And underway now is the fasting for climate change by hundreds and, eventually, thousands. Coordinated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, this fasting is taking place in different countries every day (except Sundays, of course) from now until Holy Saturday.

From Burundi to Vietnam to Canada to Brazil, sacrifices are being made in over forty countries around the globe. And many prayers are being said.

And it would seem that God listens.

But are we seeing the activity of God the Father in all this good news? Do we acknowledge in our lives Christ’s intercession for us—that is, the place of our prayers—in the softening of human hearts? Do we give thanks to the Spirit for our pontiff steering us forward?

Many are making these connections. And yet it can’t hurt to ponder Mark’s words from this Sunday’s gospel:

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. (Mark 9:5-8)

Let us never forget that Jesus really does remain with us today—in the breaking of the bread, in the proclamation of His gospel, in all the Sacraments, and however else He chooses. Which is why those polling numbers and what Pope Francis called our attention to today are, I think, glimmers of the hope we have for a better tomorrow.

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.