Papal directive on climate change welcomed by Bishop Fred Henry

Bishop Fred Henry of the Calgary Catholic Diocese says the latest papal encyclical is a call to action on climate change and poverty.

Calgary cleric says ecology and social justice must be addressed

Bishop Fred Henry says the papal encyclical on climate change has a 'spirit of hope' about it.' (CBC)

Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred Henry says he was "jumping for joy" when he read the papal encyclical on climate change thanks to its spirit of hope.

"The central theme is what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us," said Henry. 

"The environment must not be considered in isolation. Let's be honest and face the fact that serious things are happening to our Earth, which have implications well beyond simply ecology."

The 190-page directive from Pope Francis released Thursday calls for urgent action on climate change, and an end to fossil fuels. The encyclical links the environmental crisis to the spread of economic inequality in the world.

"We have have enormous challenges in the area of pollution and climate change. We've got issues about fresh water, we've got a loss of biodiversity. We've got a decline in the quality of human life, and everything ultimately is related," said Henry.

Growing wealth gap is 'unconscionable'

The bishop says problems in developing countries are directly related to the lifestyles of people in the west.

"We are a hyperly consumer-oriented society, and those in the first world want to hang on to their lifestyle and ignore the distribution problem that we have, and the waste problem that we have," he said, adding the growing gap between the rich and the poor is "unconscionable."

He points to the floods in Calgary in 2013 as an example, saying when natural disasters occur the poor suffer because they have less means to respond.

"We still have some people, for example on the Siksika reserve, who are still trying to put their lives back together again, but they don't really kind of count because they don't have the influence with government, they don't have the ability to speak for themselves, they don't have the votes in order to carry an election," he said.

According to Henry, the church is not trying to propose a solution, but is pointing out that creation is a gift from God, given to everyone and not just to a few.

"But it's saying that yes we have a way out, we can find a way. As human beings we've got the ability and the talent to be able to do some problem solving here and there's not going to be any one solution, but if we work together we can do this," he said.