Pope Francis renewed his call for responsible treatment of the environment this Saturday in a speech at an Italian university, calling the struggle “to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation” one of the greatest challenges of our time. It’s not the first time the pope has spoken up about environmental concerns, and it should come as no surprise from a man who took his papal name from Francis of Assisi–patron saint of animals and the environment.
Nor is it unusual for a pope to urge greater respect for God’s creation. But added to his list of other quote-unquote progressive beliefs, this support for the environmentalist cause is sure to increase Francis’s status as a darling of those looking to bring the church into a brave new era. The socially conscious pope even announced in January that he is working on an encyclical on “the ecology of man.” The completed letter would be sent out to all bishops as a form of papal teaching, and will be the first ever encyclical devoted to the topic. “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” he said after holding a five-day summit on sustainability at the Vatican.