A group of faith-based environmental advocates are encouraging thousands of religious Americans to sign a petition asking President Barack Obama to discuss climate change with Pope Francis during their upcoming meeting on March 27.
The online petition, which is posted on the White House’s “We the People” website, was created by Richard Cizik, head of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive evangelical Christian organization. In addition to asking President Obama to invite the pope to visit one of America’s national parks and monuments, the petition makes the religious case for action on climate change.
“We ask that President Obama give the Pope a photograph of one of our majestic parks or new national monuments as an example of America’s proud tradition of conservation leadership, and discuss the sacred obligation of people across faiths to protect God’s creation,” the petition read, adding, “Conservation is a moral responsibility.”
The petition currently has around 500 signatures. However, If it passes the 100,000 threshold, the website’s policy dictates that the White House is required to offer an official response.
The online effort hopes to build on Pope Francis’ increasingly progressive environmental record. Like Pope Benedict XVI before him, Francis frequently lists the need to care for the earth as a core religious value, and even called on believers to “protect creation” during his inaugural mass. He is also is reportedly preparing a formal encyclical on the environment, set to be released later this year.
Other people of faith are also increasingly rallying behind environmental causes. In addition to the New Evangelical Partnership, organizations such as Interfaith Power and Light, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, and the Good Steward Campaign have been working for years to organize people of faith for collective action around climate change, and Catholic nuns are currently key leaders in efforts to stop the construction of the Bluegrass Pipeline in Kentucky.
The petition also comes at a time when the pope’s popularity is surging among Washington lawmakers. President Obama quoted Pope Francis in a recent speech on economic inequality, and last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), both of whom are Catholic, formally invited the pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
Cizik and company are not the only progressive advocates soliciting the help of the head of the Catholic church. Activists who support an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system are also seeking an audience with Pope Francis the day before he meets with President Obama. They hope to present him more than 1,000 letters written by children whose families are in danger of deportation.
This post has been updated to reflect the number of signatures on the petition.
Jack Jenkins is the Senior Writer and Researcher with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Follow them on Twitter @CAPFaith.