Pope’s Visit: A Teachable Moment

September 23, 2015

As the region looks toward Pope Francis’s visit, Ursinus students saw a teachable moment. A diverse group of students held an interfaith dialogue on the environment. 

A diverse group of students, including a co-president of Hillel and a student who works in the Office of the Chaplain, met with Rabbi Michael Ramberg, college rabbi and Hillel Adviser, and Rev. Chris Moriconi of St. Eleanor’s parish, for an interfaith dialogue on the Pope’s views on the environment.

Axel González ’16 initiated the reading of the Pope’s encyclical on climate change with Rabbi Ramberg. The Hillel group has been a proponent of sustainability. The dialogue and study encouraged students to think about the issues challenging society, and they note that these issues were not limited to one religious group.

“It has been truly delightful to have a platform to discuss such grave and important issues in a small, self-initiated group,” says Aastha Gautham ’16, a philosophy and sociology major and a Bonner Leader. “I have realized more than ever before, issues pertaining to our home (planet) must be prioritized with urgent dialogue and on–going action, within the Pope’s religious influence and beyond, because his ideas and values in the encyclical are wholly universal and can be applied to any part of the world.”

For González, who is majoring in American Studies, reading the Pope’s encyclical on climate change encouraged him to “think more about the connections between social and environmental justice and about the revolutionary changes we need to make in society. It also pushed me to reflect on sustainability on campus, to push for more student involvement and dialogue about sustainability, and to encourage that dialogue to look at the roots of problems, rather than the symptoms.

The diverse group met three times to read the text together. The Pope stresses that interfaith dialogue is necessary to create a healthier planet, a point which inspired Rabbi Ramberg. “I appreciated the opportunity to learn about another world religion’s environmental theology and ethics.”