VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican is considering setting up an environmental think tank, a spokesman said on Thursday, which could influence the opinion of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics on such thorny issues as climate change.
Father Federico Lombardi said the proposal was discussed at a closed-door meeting of cardinals from around the world who are at the Vatican to deliberate a reform of the Church's central administration, known as the Curia.
"We see a growth in the awareness (of environmental problems) and in the importance of reflection, commitment, and study of environmental issues and their relation to social and human questions," he told reporters at a briefing.
Pope Francis has said that man is destroying nature and betraying God's calling to be stewards of creation.
Last month, he said he believed man was primarily responsible for climate change and he hoped a U.N. summit in Paris in November, due to agree a global pact to limit greenhouse gases, would take a courageous stand.
The pope's keenly awaited encyclical, or message to the whole Church, on the environment is due in early summer. Lombardi said it would provide guidelines for the Church's "serious and considerable" commitment to environmental issues.
The spokesman said the environment office would likely come under a new Curia department grouping justice, peace and charity issues.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Liisa Tuhkanen and Ralph Boulton