Even before "Laudato Si” was released, the Vatican made clear that they didn't see the document as purely symbolic. Instead, Pope Francis wanted to ensure that it had a tangible effect on the world.
And a conference being held at the Vatican is the latest proof that the Pope wants to change both people and policies with his encyclical.
Mayor of San Francisco (USA)
"I do think that His Holiness is using his creativeness to really speak to cities and encourage us to do even more. And I love the fact that I can talk to mayor of Rome, and the mayor of Paris, and, of course, our mayor of New York as well and compare notes about what we're all doing.”
It was indeed a diverse gathering. More than 60 mayors from five different continents discussed how they're addressing climate change and human trafficking.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that the conference gave him a new sense of urgency about fighting sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Mayor of Boston (USA)
"The testimony I've heard here today from two young women, one that was basically a slave and broke away from that just a couple of months ago. Another woman that was put into prostitution at the age of twelve. As a mayor, that's something we can address immediately.”
One of the conference's most enthusiastic backers was California Gov. Jerry Brown. He gave an impassioned speech at the start of the event and he had even convinced the mayor of San Francisco to attend.
Brown said that he believes "Laudato Si” is a revolutionary document in the history of the Church. And he considers local action crucial to fighting climate change. He compared the struggle to changing the direction of a massive ship.
Governor of California (USA)
"Mayors can do things. Buildings that they approve in their jurisdictions. Sharing rides. Making pedestrian friendly streets. There's packaging, waste, recycling. There are many ways that greenhouse gases are generated in a city that the city governments could roll back and restrict. And that's what they're signing up for today.”
During the first day of the conference, dozens of mayors gave speeches about their cities and what they're doing to fight human trafficking and climate change. The second day will include panels on urban development, climate change, social inclusion, and other issues related to governance.