Wake Forest Professor Weighs In on Impact of Pope's Visit

NATIONWIDE -- After weeks of anticipation, Pope Francis finally arrived to the United States on Wednesday. The leader of the Catholic Church wasted no time delivering his message to those in attendance and President Barack Obama.

"Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution, accepting the urgency,” said Pope Francis. “It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation."

Dr. Lucas Johnston, associate professor of religion and environment at Wake Forest University, said it was an important moment and a timely one for the pope.

"Encourage climate negotiators in Paris to come to an accord,” said Johnston. “I think that's probably the major strategic reason."

Johnston said Pope Francis's message may reach more people than in previous years. He believed the Pope's humanity and humility has shined a new light on the Catholic Church.

"I think its refreshing to a lot of people,” said Johnston. “His popularity in the U.S. even among non-Catholics is quite high."

Johnston believed that Pope Francis chose cities like Washington D.C., New York City and Philadelphia to reach white Catholics. He says statistics show that's where the pope's message is most unheard.

Johnston said he's not surprised by Pope Francis's mission so far since taking over. Saint Francis after all was invested in nature and the poor.

Climate change discussions begin in December. Only then will the world know if the pope's message had any impact.

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