As Pope Francis arrives in the US he will have the support of 169 Catholic college and university leaders worldwide, including nearly 100 US presidents, for his message on climate change and social justice as presented in his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. These universities represent a wide range of Catholic higher education institutions across the country including Saint Joseph's College.

These 96 leaders in US Catholic higher education have joined nearly 80 Catholic university presidents from 32 other nations in signing a statement of support and a public commitment to work collaboratively “through all the means available to and appropriate for our colleges and universities as institutions of higher learning, to study, promote, and act on the ideals and vision of integral ecology laid out by Pope Francis.”

The statement was also supported by numerous national and international Catholic higher education associations and federations, including the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, and the International Federation of Catholic Universities based in Paris. Suggested templates of available and appropriate means of implementation are currently being developed and will be shared with all the participating schools and associations.

Laudato Si’, published in June 2015, was intentionally released in anticipation of the critical United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for November 30 through December 11 of this year in Paris. That meeting is widely considered one of the last opportunities for the world community to prevent many of the worst disasters expected from current and projected patterns of climate change by the world scientific community.

“This strong affirmation by the Catholic higher education leadership internationally, joined with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, should silence those who try to dismiss Pope Francis’ message by questioning his credibility on the issues,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, who hosted and coordinated the higher education commitment effort.

A version of this web story can be found on the Ignatian Solidarity Network website.