Archbishop Cupich backs Pope Francis’ call to save the planet

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Archbishop Blase Cupich hopes to meet with Pope Francis in Rome. | Sun-Times file photo

Before leaving for Europe this week, where he will attend Mass and perhaps huddle with Pope Francis, Archbishop Blase Cupich held a news conference to reinforce Francis’ call for humanity to save the planet.

“It’s an unmistakable fact that our environment is in peril,” Cupich told a small crowd of media and religious leaders Thursday at the Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 N. Rush St.

He encouraged people to “forsake our self-centered culture of instant gratification” and noted Pope Francis’ message was not simply intended for Catholics.

“He is inviting each person on this planet to become informed,” Cupich said.

“We see the assault on the environment as a fundamental matter of right and wrong,” Cupich said, echoing refrains from Francis’ encyclical, a letter released Thursday that focused on ecology.

RELATED: Pope Francis urges revolution to save Earth, fix ‘perverse’ economy

“The rupture of the relationship between humanity and the planet is an ecological sin that requires repentance and a firm purpose of amendment,” Cupich said. “The cause is the same as all sin: selfishness.”

Cupich said the archdiocese is leading by example and is in the process of lowering the carbon footprint of its 8,000 employees and 2,700 buildings, some which date back to the Civil War.

He made a simple request: “Join us.”

He encouraged Chicagoans “begin by taking small steps.” Recycle. Do not waste food. Avoid the use of plastics.

Asked about how Chicagoans who’ve grown frustrated by city’s problem-plagued recycling program should respond, Cupich was optimistic.

“Let’s double down our efforts to get it done,” he said. “Major metropolitan areas do recycling. There’s no reason why the people of Chicago, which is really a can-do city, shouldn’t be able to take this on.”

Cupich highlighted several of Francis’ main points, namely the need for business leaders to put environment above profit, the need to reduce global warming caused by humans, the need to protect the poor — who are the most vulnerable to violent weather swings caused by global warming and the need to curb over-consumption.

“The Earth is on loan from each generation to the next,” said Cupich, who is leaving Friday for Ukraine, where he will visit hospitals, schools and orphanages that have received portions of an $8 million fund from the Catholic church in the United States intended to benefit Eastern Europe.

He also plans to visit with the Archbishop of Donetsk, who has been displaced by heavy fighting in the region.

Cupich will travel on to Rome on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I’m going to really look for an opportunity to chat with the Pope,” he said.

Cupich said he had no agenda items to discuss.

“I have a decade or so before I have to retire and I want to have fun and this is going to be fun,” he said of the trip to Rome. “He’s given me everything anybody could ever ask for, he made me Archbishop of Chicago.”

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