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Santorum says Pope Francis should butt out of climate debate

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says in a radio interview that Pope Francis should stay out of the climate change debate.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized Pope Francis for his plans to frame climate change as a moral issue, saying in a radio interview that the Catholic Church should leave science to scientists.

Santorum, a devout Catholic who built his political career as a social conservative, told Philadelphia's  WPHT 1210 host Dom Giordano Monday that he loves Francis and is a "huge fan of his."

All the same, the former Pennsylvania senator suggested the church is not qualified and could harm its credibility if the pope issues an encyclical on climate change, a politically charged matter.

"The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focus on what we're really good at, which is theology and morality," Santorum said in the interview. "And I think when we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, then I think the church is probably not as forceful and credible."

The church should tend to souls, he said. "We're better off sticking to things that are really the core teachings of the church as opposed to getting involved with every other kind of issue that happens to be popular at the time," Santorum said.

Francis has addressed climate change several times. In January, he said that it is mostly man-made – "it is man who continuously slaps down nature." The pope has said the church's obligation to care for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world means it should address climate change.

"I understand and I sympathize and I support completely the pope's call for us to do more to create opportunities for people to be able to rise in society, and to care for the poor," Santorum said in the Giordano interview.

Santorum, the runner up in the 2012 GOP race, announced his second campaign last week with a focus on the plight of blue-collar workers.