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Faith leaders reflect on Pope Francis' stance on climate change

Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media

As Pope Francis wrapped up the first full day of his U.S. visit on Wednesday, the Delaware Interfaith Power and Light group gathered Delawareans of various faiths for a climate vigil as a show of support of  the pontiff’s stance on climate change. They gathered on the front steps of the First and Central Presbyterian Church, across from Rodney Square in Wilmington.

“In religious terms, a vigil is a time when we stay awake when we otherwise would go to sleep,” began Reverend Martha Kirkpatrick from the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. “Pope Francis’ encyclical has awakened us to the deep dysfunction in our relationship with the Earth.” 
Along with Kirkpatrick, the First Unitarian Church, the Islamic Society of Delaware, among others were represented at the event. Members of each organization stressed how crucial it is to pay attention to the changing environment and recognize how underprivileged populations are suffering the most from these changes. Some shared old passages to illuminate how deeply ingrained environmental values are in their religion. 
“As the prophet Muhammad was purported to have said, ‘The world is green and pleasant thing. God has made you stewards of it and looks at how you behave,’” said Ahmed Sharkawy from the Islamic Society of Delaware. 
Each speaker reflected on how Pope Francis’ June environmental encyclical was a call to action for everyone, regardless of religion. Mary Bauer from St. Catherine of Siena Church, a Catholic institution, found the Pope’s message unusual, but inspiring. 
“Since we’ve often only heard from popes and bishops in terms of theological issues, this was a very refreshing way of saying this is a moral issue, not a theological issue, so I was very pleased,” said Bauer. 
As the faith leaders gave their talks, petitions to support environmental causes were passed around. At the vigil’s conclusion, the attendants lit candles and recited a prayer. 

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