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Catholic Republican congressman will boycott Pope Francis' address

Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican congressman from Arizona who describes himself as a "proud Catholic," is boycotting Pope Francis' historic address before a joint session of Congress next week.

"If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend," Gosar wrote in an op-ed on the conservative website Town Hall. "When the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.

It's unclear what the pope will talk about when he speaks on Capitol Hill on Thursday, making him the first pope ever to formally address the U.S. Congress. Francis, however, has put unprecedented emphasis on environmental matters. Earlier this year, he issued a 184-page encyclical -- the most authoritative teaching document the pope can issue -- on climate change.

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In his op-ed Gosar dismisses climate change concerns, noting the climate has been changing "since first created in Genesis."

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"To promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous," he wrote of the pope's encyclical.

The congressman said the pope should instead focus on issues like "the persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities... the heinous and senseless murders committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations... [and] the condoned, subsidized, intentionally planned genocide of unborn children by Planned Parenthood and society."

Pope Francis has condemned the persecution of Christians, as well as abortion, so it's possible he could address these and other issues on Thursday.

It's unclear whether other conservatives will follow Gosar's lead and boycott the pope's appearance.

However, a handful of Republicans are in fact following the pope's lead and promising better stewardship of the environment. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-New York, announced Thursday that he and 10 other Republicans are introducing a resolution calling for better environmental stewardship through "economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates."

Gibson, who is Catholic, noted in a press release that the resolution aligns with Pope Francis' visit. Gibson and his 10 colleagues, the release said, worked with faith-based leaders, as well as environmental, business, national security and community leaders, to develop their resolution.

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