Lo and behold there was social activist Naomi Klein at the Vatican today. And no, not leading any protest march – she was in the Vatican Press office singing the praises of Pope Francis and his Encyclical on the climate. Yes, it was hard to believe, I was rubbing my eyes a bit myself, but there she was speaking about the “courage” or Pope Francis and the “poetry” of his words with the Pope’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi looking on approvingly.
And I must admit Mozzarella Mamma was looking on approvingly too. I have not read her books but I liked this outspoken writer, activist mother. My sister, a big environmentalist had heard she would be there a few days ago and urged me to go and I was glad to see her.
Klein was invited by the Vatican to take part in a climate conference over the next few days titled “People and Planet First: The Imperative to Change Course.”
Sitting beneath a large Vatican crest, Klein admitted up front that “as a secular Jewish feminist” she was “surprised to be invited by the Vatican.”
Klein urged the whole world to read Pope Francis’ encyclical saying, “Read it and let it into your hearts. The grief at what we have already lost, and the celebration of what we can still protect…”
Since I did not cover the release of the encyclical (I was in Northern Italy covering Michelle Obama), I want to share some key quotes from the Encyclical “Laudato, Si”
It opens: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”
The Pope goes on: “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor….”
The Pope wrote that young people are demanding change, he denounces “compulsive consumerism” and pushes for a “bold cultural revolution” to combat climate change.
Klein, author of the best-seller “No Logo” and more recently “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” has been one of the most outspoken leaders of the No-Global movement. Many of her anti-capitalist arguments dove-tail with views of Pope Francis.
In his Encyclical, the Pope did not shy away from denouncing economic powers writing, “economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.”
The Pope said that the earth “is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” He denounced the “throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. ”
At the Vatican today Klein said “and now we are confronted with the reality that we were never the master, never that boss- and that we are unleashing natural forces that are far more powerful than even our most ingenious machines. We can save ourselves, but only if we let go of the myth of dominance and mastery and learn to work with nature…”
So why did the Vatican invite Naomi Klein. Perhaps the answer was in the Encyclical itself where the Pope declared, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
Of course one of the first questions Klein received was about her differences with the Pope and the Vatican on certain issues, such as population control, and her thoughts on Catholics who opposed her presence at the Vatican.
Klein neatly batted away the question declaring that they have made an “alliance on a specific issue, it is not a merger.” She pointed out that “Nobody is being asked to agree on everything,” and added that in order to fight climate change “people have to get out of their comfort zones.”
In his Encyclical the Pope wrote, “Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms…”
There has been a fair amount of criticism of the Encyclical from Republicans in the United States with Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush and others saying the Pope is not a scientist and should not meddle in politics.
Today Naomi Klein had some thoughts on that, noting that: “This (the encyclical) could mean real trouble for American politicians who are counting on using the Bible as a cover for their opposition to climate action. In this regard, Pope Francis’s trip to the U.S. this September could not be better timed.”
Pope Francis will visit Cuba and the United States from September 19th through 28th. He will be the first Pope to address a joint session of Congress on September 24th and will address the UN in addition to meeting with prisoners, homeless people and immigrants. (I will be traveling on the Papal plane and covering the whole trip for AP Television)
When pushed on the question of why the Pope invited her, Klein said, ““Given the attacks that are coming from the Republican party around this and also the fossil fuel interests in the United States, it was a particularly courageous decision to invite me here. I think it indicates that the Holy See is not being intimidated, and knows that when you say powerful truths, you make some powerful enemies and that’s part of what this is about.”
The Pope’s Encyclical is making him very popular among progressives, not just Naomi Klein. I was very amused by this cartoon showing the Pope in a car with bumper stickers which remind me of cars one sees in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I was born.