Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is heralded as one of the greatest scientists of all time. By improving the telescope he looked further into the sky than anyone before him. He also championed “heliocentrism,” the notion that the sun is the centre of the galaxy, a heretical idea at that time.
Though the evidence was hard to deny, the power structure and naysayers did what they do best: tried to stamp out the truth.
The truth that the sun resides in the centre of our solar system has been accepted for centuries. But it wasn’t until 348 years later that the church finally exonerated Galileo — the truth was just too overwhelming to deny any longer.
Today naysayers and the power elite continue to deny climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. But wonder of wonders, the most powerful person in the same church who imprisoned Galileo is on the verge of making an Encyclical on climate change.
This statement will be a matter of doctrine for the millions of Catholics worldwide. An Encyclical “is the authoritative end to theological debate on a particular question.” It’s a gutsy move since some of the most vitriolic naysayers are Catholics in the US Congress.
Pope Francis sees climate change as a moral issue. He believes “we are the custodians of creation.” His public warnings have angered Big Oil. But perhaps Francis has taken heliocentrism to heart, understanding that we are not at the centre of the universe, that we are part of creation, not immune to the consequences of our disregard for the environment. Perhaps he has taken that telescopic view of Galileo’s, and seen that indeed the earth is worth our attention.
Dona and Paul Grace-Campbell