Pope Francis is in Sri Lanka and the Philippines this week on his second tour of Asia. His whirlwind trip through centers of both religious piety and religious conflict is an opportunity for Francis to deliver some of the high points of his papal message in his own distinctive style. The calls for truth and reconciliation he issued when he touched down on Tuesday were matched by sharp reiterationsof Catholic teachings against contraception on Thursday. That’s the Francis spirit—lead with “love thy neighbor” and then sharply remind people that he’s not just about kissing babies. But Francis’s agenda in Asia is about more than just the usual fare.
On Thursday in the Philippines, Francis met with survivors of Typhoon Haiyanand called out human beings as responsible for climate change. “Man has gone too far,” said the Pope; “it is man who continually slaps down nature.” Talking climate change in the shadow of a natural disaster is classic Francis. By meeting with those most affected by extreme weather events Francis is drawing attention to the ways that natural disasters are linked to climate change and putting a human face on the global warming debate.
The reporting of Francis’s statements on climate change didn’t quite command the media attention that his strong statements about contraception did, but they are an important part of Francis’s plan for the future. In many ways the Pope’s statements are a prelude to what we can expect from Francis in 2015. Back in November, the Vatican announced that Francis’s next papal encyclical would focus on climate change. According to Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the pope’s aim is to influence the U.N. climate meeting in Paris in December this year.