Religion and Climate Change: Pope’s Message Focus of Classroom Discussion

Religion and Climate Change: Pope’s Message Focus of Classroom Discussion

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

During his visit to the U.S. this week, Pope Francis is drawing attention to the issue of climate change, its causes and strategies to address it. The pope’s message hasn’t been lost on students and faculty at the College of Charleston.

Religious studies professor Todd LeVasseur ’97, who recently wrote an opinion piece for Charleston’s Post & Courier about the pope and his outlook on climate change, is teaching a course this semester titled “Religion, Environmentalism and the Natural World.” LeVasseur says his students are well aware of the pope’s visit and his stance on this particular issue.

Student Michaela Hermann, an international studies major who is taking LeVasseur’s class, believes that the Pope’s message on climate change is fitting for the times we’re living in. “His willingness to talk about environmental issues to his globe-spanning church audience may allow us to harness the power of religion to create positive ecological change on an unprecedented scale,” Hermann says. “As a member of a younger generation, I can only hope that our leaders and the public are receptive to his message.”

LeVasseur, who also directs the College’s Environmental Studies Program, isn’t just focusing on the pope’s visit as an opportunity to explore the connections between religion and the environment. “One of the things we’ll be studying closely,” he offers, “is the pope’s encyclical letter, which was released last spring and frames climate change as a moral issue that demands immediate attention. I’ll be curious to see how my students assess the pope’s view.”