Pope Francis' Leaked Encyclical Draft Attributes Climate Change To Human Activity

06/15/2015 01:45 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015

A draft of Pope Francis’ long-awaited encyclical on the environment has leaked just days before the Vatican was set to release it to the world.

L’Espresso, an Italian magazine, published the 192-page document on its website Monday. The draft encyclical says that while there may be other factors involved in climate change, "numerous scientific studies indicate that the majority of the global warming in recent decades is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases... emitted above all due to human activity," according to a Huffington Post translation of the document.

The draft opens by saying climate change is the Earth’s way of protesting “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods that God placed in her.”

“We have grown up thinking that we were her owners and dominators, authorized to loot her,” the draft reads, according to a translation by The Guardian. “The violence that exists in the human heart, wounded by sin, is also manifest in the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things.”

The document goes on to declare that access to clean drinking water is "an essential human right, fundamental and universal." It describes the disproportionate effects of climate change on poor populations, whose "livelihoods depend heavily on nature reserves." It also accuses those with more resources and greater economic power of "making the problems or hiding the symptoms" of climate change.

“The attitudes that stand in the way of a solution, even among believers, range from negation of the problem, to indifference, to convenient resignation or blind faith in technical solutions,” the draft reads. "Today we cannot help but recognize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach, which must integrate justice in the discussions of the environment, to hear the cry of the earth as much as the cry of the poor."

Vatican officials reacted swiftly to the leak, saying the document was not the final version of the pope’s letter and urging journalists to respect a Thursday embargo. However, multiple U.S. publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, reported on the contents of the document Monday.

The Vatican announced on June 4 that the encyclical would not be released to the press until Thursday, June 18. It is unclear how L'Espresso acquired the draft ahead of the embargo.

Joshua McElwee, who covers the Vatican for the U.S.-based National Catholic Reporter, tweeted that most other Italian news outlets had decided not to publish anything about the contents of the leaked document.

A Vatican official called the leak a “heinous act” in an interview with Bloomberg.

Pope Francis has spoken often about the moral obligation to protect the environment. His encyclical on the topic has been anticipated for over a year.

On May 15, Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Vatican official who helped write a first draft of the encyclical, emphasized the “all-embracing moral imperative” to care for the environment. He said that wealthy countries, in particular, “are morally obligated... to reduce their own carbon emissions and to help protect poorer countries from the disasters caused or exacerbated by the excesses of industrialization.”

The leaked draft invites people everywhere to participate in the task of environmental protection, though it remains to be seen to what extent the pope can actually influence the global conversation on climate change. A HuffPost/YouGov poll in May found that while 82 percent of Americans and 84 percent of American Catholics believe humans have a “moral duty to protect the environment,” only 52 percent of the general population and the same percentage of U.S. Catholics think climate change is caused by humans. (For the record, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that climate change is indeed being caused by humans.)

The document offers a word of hope, however, saying the task of protecting the earth should “unite the whole human family.”

“The Creator does not abandon us, he never backed down in his plan of love," the draft reads, according to HuffPost's translation. "Humanity still has the ability to work together to build our common home.”

This article has been updated with translated excerpts of the leaked encyclical.

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