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Jerry Brown views Sistine Chapel, helps docent with history

Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, tour the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City on July 22, 2015.
Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, tour the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City on July 22, 2015. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

With a climate change conference winding down here Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown slipped into the Sistine Chapel, walked beneath Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and stood for several minutes before the altar wall.

He was in the chapel with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, and two advisers ahead of the building’s public opening, and a docent was describing the history of the chapel and the dates of various events.

Brown asked if he knew the year of death of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and when he said he did not, Brown provided it – 1556.

His wife looked over and Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, told her, “I want him to have a complete understanding.”

Brown was offered a fuller tour, but he demurred. Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth institute, was about to speak at the nearby Casina Pio IV, headquarters of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and Brown was looking at his watch.

Brown made it in time to hear Sachs, then delivered his own remarks. Pope Francis had convened the two-day meeting to address climate change following the release of his encyclical on the issue.

Brown said it is hard for people to imagine the possibility of catastrophe but that there are places where the effects of “radical change” can be seen.

“Being right here in Rome, where we can walk through the ruins of a great Roman empire, gives us an example,” he said. “It was defeated not by another empire, but by 12 Galileans who had no money, who didn’t even speak Latin, but who began the process of taking down the Roman empire and replacing it with Christianity.”

Of efforts to address climate change, Brown said, “We’re in a world with a lot of complacency and a lot of cynicism. It’s going to take imagination. It’s going to take real faith.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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