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Jan 30, 2015 7:50 AM

EPA administrator at Vatican ahead of encyclical.

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met Friday with Vatican officials who helped draft Pope Francis' upcoming encyclical on ecology, evidence that the Obama administration is seeking to hitch its climate-change message onto that of the popular pope.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters that her aim in visiting was to show the Vatican how aligned President Barack Obama and Francis are on climate change. She said she wanted to stress that global warming isn't just an environmental issue, but a public health threat, and yet also a chance for economic opportunity.

"I think the most important thing that we can do, working with the pope, is to try to remind ourselves that this is really about protecting natural resources that human beings rely on, and that those folks that are most vulnerable that the church has always been focused on, those in poverty and low income are the first that are going to be hit and impacted by a changing climate," she said.

She added, however: "It's certainly not my place to dictate to the pope what he should be doing in an encyclical."

While Pope Benedict XVI introduced solar energy to the Vatican and joined a reforestation project aimed at offsetting the Vatican's CO2 emissions, Francis has caught the world's attention for environmentalism, and his upcoming encyclical has drawn more speculation than any papal document in memory. During his recent Asia trip, Francis asserted that climate change is real and that human activity is "mostly" to blame.

Environmentalists are thrilled by his involvement, but skeptics of global warming including religious conservatives in the U.S. are irate that he's taking up the issue at all.

This isn't the first time the Obama administration has highlighted shared interests with the pope: Obama credited Francis with helping mediate the thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations.


Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield


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