Pope Francis just released a papal encyclical on climate change, and it’s already sparking infighting within the Republican presidential field.
The long-anticipated document on called on citizens and governments to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. But the Vatican also took time on Thursday to Republican candidates who have been critical of the Pope’s involvement on the issue.
According to Bloomberg, during a press conference on Thursday, the co-author of Pope Francis’ encyclical called out Republicans.
“Their decision not to listen to the pope is based on the fact they think the pope is talking about something the pope is not an expert in,” Cardinal Peter Turkson said. “We talk about these subject matters not because we are experts on those matters — we talk about them because they concern the impact on our lives.”
Turkson’s comments come after many Republicans have taken steps to downplay the pope’s legitimacy on climate change. There are five Republican candidates either in the field or expected to enter who are Catholic.
Last month, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said that the pope should “leave science to the scientists. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) said he listened to the pope on religious matters, but suggested he wouldn’t take his climate change advice.
“I don’t go to mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I’ve got another people helping me along the way with that,” Bush said.
But in a crowded Republican field, some candidates attempted to distinguish themselves.
Following the Pope’s announcement on Thursday, former New York Gov. George Pataki took a shot at several 2016 Republican presidential candidates by name over climate change, saying that Republicans should try and grown the green technology economy.
Some political strategists think the Pope’s push could give Democrats the religious high ground on climate change, in addition to the support of the scientific community.
On Wednesday, Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at the nonpartisan Potomac Research Group, wrote in his newsletter that “the GOP versus the Pope” would be “a big story in the next year.”
“Republicans have to tread carefully,” Valliere said.
Even if the candidates attempt to dodge the issue on the trail, they may be confronted with it at home. The New York Times reported that Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) attend a Catholic church in Miami that is emphasising the issue to its church-goers.
For his part, the pope is unlikely to curb his rhetoric on climate change. The pontiff came out swinging on Thursday, calling out consumer culture and saying that the earth is “beginning to look like an immense pile of filth.”
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