The pope's bold move on climate change is already stoking some GOP infighting

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Pope Steers Church Focus to Climate Change With Encyclical

Pope Francis just released a papal encyclical on climate change, and it's already sparking infighting within the Republican presidential field.

The long-anticipated document on called on citizens and governments to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. But the Vatican also took time on Thursday to Republican candidates who have been critical of the Pope's involvement on the issue.

According to Bloomberg, during a press conference on Thursday, the co-author of Pope Francis' encyclical called out Republicans.

"Their decision not to listen to the pope is based on the fact they think the pope is talking about something the pope is not an expert in," Cardinal Peter Turkson said. "We talk about these subject matters not because we are experts on those matters -- we talk about them because they concern the impact on our lives."

Turkson's comments come after many Republicans have taken steps to downplay the pope's legitimacy on climate change. There are five Republican candidates either in the field or expected to enter who are Catholic.

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The pope's bold move on climate change is already stoking some GOP infighting
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 14: Pope Francis greets a baby during a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter's Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues during his Sunday Angelus blessing. His upcoming encyclical 'Laudato Sii' on the environment will be launched at a Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 14: Pope Francis talks with Vicar General of Rome cardinal Agostino Vallini (L) during a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter's Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues during his Sunday Angelus blessing. His upcoming encyclical 'Laudato Sii' on the environment will be launched at a Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 14: Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's Square for a meeting with the Roman Diocesans on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues during his Sunday Angelus blessing. His upcoming encyclical 'Laudato Sii' on the environment will be launched at a Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 14: Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for a meeting with the Roman Diocesans on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. During his today Sunday Angelus blessing ÊPope Francis has invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues. His upcoming encyclical 'Laudato Sii' on the environment will be launched at a Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis delivers his message on the occasion of an audience with participants of Rome's diocese convention in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Francis engaged in some self-promotion during his weekly blessing, alerting the thousands of people in St. Peter's Square that his first solo encyclical is coming out on Thursday and inviting them to pay attention to environmental degradation around them. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis is hugged by a child on the occasion of an audience with participants of Rome's diocese convention in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Francis engaged in some self-promotion during his weekly blessing, alerting the thousands of people in St. Peter's Square that his first solo encyclical is coming out on Thursday and inviting them to pay attention to environmental degradation around them. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, flanked by Ecuador's President Rafael Correa attends a Vatican conference on the environment, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Ban Ki-moon, who earlier in the morning met Pope Francis during a private audience, opened the conference that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical - a pope's most authoritative teaching document - which is expected in June. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, background center, flanked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, delivers his speech during a Vatican conference on the environment, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Ban Ki-moon, who earlier in the morning met Pope Francis during a private audience, opened the conference that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical - a pope's most authoritative teaching document - which is expected in June. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - JUNE 14: The sculpture featuring The Christ Redeemer on the terrace overlooking St. Peter's Square during a meeting of Pope Francis with the Roman Diocesans on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pontiff invited everyone to pay attention to environmental issues during his Sunday Angelus blessing. His upcoming encyclical 'Laudato Sii' on the environment will be launched at a Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, flanked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, delivers his speech during a Vatican conference on the environment, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Ban Ki-moon, who earlier in the morning met Pope Francis during a private audience, opened the conference that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical - a pope's most authoritative teaching document - which is expected in June. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, flanked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, left, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, delivers his speech during a Vatican conference on the environment, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Ban Ki-moon, who earlier in the morning met Pope Francis during a private audience, opened the conference that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical - a pope's most authoritative teaching document - which is expected in June. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, talks to the media during a press conference, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Ban Ki-moon, who earlier in the morning met Pope Francis during a private audience, opened a Vatican conference on the environment that is a key part of the Holy See's rollout of Francis' eagerly awaited encyclical — a pope's most authoritative teaching document — which is expected in June.(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis shakes hands with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during their meeting at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The U.N. chief praised Pope Francis on Tuesday for framing climate change as an urgent moral imperative, saying his upcoming encyclical combined with a new round of U.N. climate talks in Paris provide an "unprecedented opportunity" to create a more sustainable future for the planet. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, right, flanked by U.S Ambassador to the Holy See, Ken Hackett, answers reporters' questions during a meeting with media in the ambassador residence in Rome, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Obama administration is seeking to hitch its climate change message onto that of the ever-popular Pope Francis, whose upcoming environmental encyclical has drawn more speculation than any papal document in recent memory. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency met Friday with senior Vatican officials who helped draft the document, which is expected to be released in June or July. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The U.N. chief praised Pope Francis on Tuesday for framing climate change as an urgent moral imperative, saying his upcoming encyclical combined with a new round of U.N. climate talks in Paris provide an "unprecedented opportunity" to create a more sustainable future for the planet. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy listens to reporters' questions during a meeting with media in the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See residence in Rome, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Obama administration is seeking to hitch its climate change message onto that of the ever-popular Pope Francis, whose upcoming environmental encyclical has drawn more speculation than any papal document in recent memory. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency met Friday with senior Vatican officials who helped draft the document, which is expected to be released in June or July. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
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Last month, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said that the pope should "leave science to the scientists." Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) said he listened to the pope on religious matters, but suggested he wouldn't take his climate change advice.

"I don't go to mass for economic policy or for things in politics. I've got another people helping me along the way with that," Bush said.

But in a crowded Republican field, some candidates attempted to distinguish themselves.

Following the Pope's announcement on Thursday, former New York Gov. George Pataki took a shot at several 2016 Republican presidential candidates by name over climate change, saying that Republicans should try and grown the green technology economy.

Some political strategists think the Pope's push could give Democrats the religious high ground on climate change, in addition to the support of the scientific community.

On Wednesday, Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at the nonpartisan Potomac Research Group, wrote in his newsletter that "the GOP versus the Pope" would be "a big story in the next year."

"Republicans have to tread carefully," Valliere said.

Even if the candidates attempt to dodge the issue on the trail, they may be confronted with it at home. The New York Times reported that Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) attend a Catholic church in Miami that is emphasizing the issue to its church-goers.

For his part, the pope is unlikely to curb his rhetoric on climate change. The pontiff came out swinging on Thursday, calling out consumer culture and saying that the earth is "beginning to look like an immense pile of filth."

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