U.S. officials welcomed Pope Francis’ June 18 encyclical on the environment, a papal letter addressed not just to 1.2 billion Catholics but to “every person living on this planet.”

In a wide-ranging document more than 180 pages long, the pope stated that biblical references to the human dominion over all things on Earth “should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.”

Humanity has “a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change,” President Obama said in his statement welcoming the papal encyclical. “I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution.”

In 2013, Obama launched the Climate Action Plan to convert the nation to a clean-energy economy through a broad range of actions:

Pope Francis cited scientific evidence showing climate change is caused primarily by human actions and called for a common response among all the world’s peoples.

Pope Francis met with poor children in Manila in January. His message emphasizes that the poor will suffer most severely from the effects of climate change. (© AP Images)

“His plea for all religions to work together reflects the urgency of the challenge,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “As stewards of our planet, we can all work together to manage our resources sustainably and ensure that the poorest among us are resilient to climate change.”

The pope’s message comes in advance of his planned September visit to the United States. President Obama said he looks forward to discussing climate change in that meeting.

Major international talks on an agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions are scheduled for December. Obama said the pope’s message should be heeded in those negotiations. “It is my hope that all world leaders — and all God’s children — will reflect on Pope Francis’ call to come together to care for our common home,” Obama said.