VP Gore to Glenmarian: Pope Francis "an amazing spiritual leader"

Posted: 8/2/2017

Glenmary Father John S. Rausch appeared on CNN Aug. 1 as part of a climate change town hall event with former United States Vice President Al Gore.

After being introduced by host Anderson Cooper, Father John said his experience as a priest in Appalachia has led him to believe the climate crisis is a crisis in spirituality.

"There are many who are living in poverty, and they're not only living in poverty, they're living right next to polluted streams and mountains that have been destroyed," Father John said. "Mr. Vice President, how can we influence people to see a spiritual connection in their consumer habits (so) that they can see the consequences of their buying, the consequences (they) have on people in Appalachia and also in other parts of God's kingdom?"

Before delving into his response, Gore took a moment to thank Father John for his ministry, and expressed admiration for the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Echoing comments he made at a town hall event in 2015, Gore reiterated that Pope Francis could inspire him to become a Catholic.

"Well, thank you, Father. And thank you for what you do. I'm a Protestant, but I'll tell you, because of Pope Francis, I really could become a Catholic. He is really an amazing spiritual leader."

Gore, who was raised a Southern Baptist, went on to recommend that people of all faith traditions should read Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si.

"Now I was taught in my church that the purpose of life is to glorify God and if we are heaping contempt on God's creation, then we're not living up to the duty that God is calling us to. And so this -- the way we live our lives is definitely connected to this. It is -- it's not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual issue. And thank you for bringing that up."

Father John's Appalachian justice education ministry raises awareness of how certain environmental issues affect the lives of people in the region. He leads pilgrimages to Appalachia to see the destructive effects of mountaintop removal, and also leads Wildflower Walks to highlight the beauty of God's creation.

"Unless people realize that we're all connected, and that's why I talked about spirituality, we will never be able to heal the planet," Father John said. "God has given the common good to everyone…Vice President Gore represents a prophetic voice at a time when we have turned our self to selfishness when we really need to develop community and a spirit of being stewards of God's garden."

In the video below, Cooper introduces Father John at the 14 minute mark. If your browser is unable to play the video, click HERE to read the transcript.