Vatican city, Vatican (BBN)-Days before it was to be published to great fanfare, a leaked draft of Pope Francis’ eagerly awaited letter on the environment was published Monday by an Italian magazine.
L’Espresso published the 192-page document in Italian online. A Vatican embargo on the letter, called an encyclical, was set to lift at 6:00 am ET on Thursday, reports CNN.
In a statement, the Vatican said that the leaked document is only a draft and the rules of the embargo remain in place.
“We ask journalists to respect professional standards, which call for the official publication of the final text,” the Vatican said.
Derived from the Greek word for “circle,” a papal encyclical is a letter from the pope to Catholic clergy and laypeople around the world. Often, the letters clarify Catholic doctrine, reiterate points of dogma and address contemporary issues through the light of church teachings.
Pope Francis, though, has said he hopes his letter will reach a wider audience, including world leaders meeting for several key environmental summits this year.
The upcoming encyclical will be the first to focus exclusively on creation care, the Christian idea that God gave humans the Earth to cultivate, not conquer. It’s also the first entirely written by Francis.
In a nod to his namesake, St. Francis, the Pope has titled his upcoming encyclical “Laudato Si.” The archaic Italian phrase, which means “Be praised,” is borrowed from the patron saint of ecology’s 13th-century song, “Canticle of the Sun.”
Months before its publication, the encyclical has drawn criticism from conservatives and climate change skeptics, who urged the Pope not to put his moral weight behind such a controversial cause.
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From the first days of his papacy, Francis has preached about the importance of the environment, not only as a scientific concern but also a moral one. In his first homily as pontiff, Francis called six times during the short sermon for humans to protect creation.
Vatican advisers have said “Laudato Si” will not be a white paper delving deeply into policy prescriptions. But neither is Francis likely to ignore the opinion of most scientists about how human activities contribute to climate change.