Inés San Martín
ROME– A top Vatican official is urging the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to lobby in Washington against many of the latest moves by the administration of Donald Trump, from the so-called temporary ban on accepting new refugees to the defense budget increase.
Talking specifically about climate change, Cardinal Peter Turkson, of Ghana, said Thursday that if Trump didn’t listen to “dissenting voices”-including those of the Catholic hierarchy – and reconsider his position on this matter, the United States risks being supplanted by China as the leader in environmental protection.
After years fighting against carbon reduction, in recent times China has invested billions in renewable energy and back in January the Chinese president asked Trump to stay in the “hard won” Paris deal.
Pope Francis, who in 2015 wrote the first papal encyclical dedicated entirely to the environment, Laudato Si’, was a big supporter of this agreement aiming to curb global warming, which was signed in Dec. 2015.
Turkson noted that while Trump is moving in the opposite direction of the Paris deal, “there is another world power, China, which is showing different signs, filling the vacuum that America is creating.”
On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order to bolster the U.S. coal industry, which was one of his campaign promises. He has also threatened to leave the Paris Agreement. Since then, both China and the European Union have rallied to support the accord. With Turkson’s comments, it’s safe to say that so has the Holy See.
Turkson, who heads the recently created Vatican Dicastery for Integral Human Development, was talking to journalists at a breakfast meeting to discuss an upcoming conference on Populorum Progresio [The Development of the People], a 1967 papal encyclical written by Paul VI.
He described Trump’s most recent executive order a “challenge.” However, Turkson also praised the “dissenting voices” within the United States.
“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge. We hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions,” Turkson said. He added that the Church is “full of hope” that some of Trump’s positions will change once he sees the dissonance between reality and the promises made on the campaign trail.
Talking about the executive orders on immigration, the prelate noted that the last one was blocked by a court in Hawaii.
When he was asked about nuclear weapons, Turkson said that the seven billion dollar increase in the military budget presented by Trump “will have to come from somewhere, so the aid for development [will be] cut.”
It’s for this reason, he continued, that the Vatican is counting on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to lobby in Washington against some of Trump’s measures.
In the two months since Trump was sworn in, the USCCB has released at least 10 statements against his executive orders, and several more against other policy goals of his administration.
In addition, individual bishops and Catholic organizations have sent out many statements defending migrants, calling the travel ban “shameful”, emphasizing the need to protect the environment and warning against the “Put America First” budget.