New Pope Francis sure likes buses, but will he be a leader for climate action?
Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been named the new head of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis, as he’s now called, awaits his future wearing cute outfits and riding around Vatican City in the popemobile. But where does Bergoglio stand on climate change?
Ex-Pope Benedict XVI, aka Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, used his papal platform to promote social and political action in response to global warming, and even added an electric car to the popemobile fleet. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was also a proponent of climate action. And other Catholic leaders have spoken out about the need for a response to the impending “serious and potentially irreversible” effects of a warmer planet. (But, shhh, don’t say anything about birth control and population growth.)
Bergoglio is still a bit of a mystery, but his humble background is well-documented. A Jesuit, he claims to have quietly rebelled during a period of grisly military dictatorship in Argentina, hiding people in his church and giving out fake identity papers. He chose to live in a small apartment instead of the fancy cardinal’s house in Buenos Aires, and he is best known “as a champion of the poor,” says The Washington Post.
This is often reflected in his very humble lifestyle, despite his position. One much-cited example of his personal (and very Franciscan) commitment is that he takes the bus.
He will presumably give up this practice for security reasons, but it says much about the personality and beliefs of the man who will now lead the Catholic church.
Boy do we love it when fancy-seeming people who have all kinds of transportation resources at their fancy disposal decide to take public transport instead. But how much does that really matter?
Bergoglio’s small efforts — from eating meals at home to speaking out for the poor in times of globalization to those bus rides — seem to reflect his personal, humble beliefs. The biggest clue to future pope’s politics, though, might be all in the name. Bergoglio took the name of Saint Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment.
Bergoglio probably won’t be organizing a Catholic tree-sit to block the Keystone XL pipeline, but, at least at first glance, it seems like Pope No. 266 might not be half-bad for the climate. Maybe Rick Santorum will even call him a radical.
Get Grist in your inbox