By Harvey Wasserman
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Sarah Palin and the tea party might be agog over Pope Francis's allegedly liberal bent, but if this week's news is any indication, they haven't seen anything yet.
The popular new Catholic pope was pictured this week posing with two Argentinian environmental activists and holding up a t-shirt with an anti-fracking slogan on it.
The photo was published to Twitter on Tuesday by Argentinian anti-frakcing activist Juan Pablo Olssen. Pictured with Olssen and Pope Francis is Argentinian politician and environmental filmmaker Fernando Solanas, according to Foreign Policy magazine.
Pope Francis reportedly told the men that he is preparing an encyclical, or statement regarding Catholic doctrine, about "nature, humans and environmental pollution." He also posed for a second photo with a t-shirt featuring the Spanish-language slogan, "El Agua Vale mas que el Oro," which means, "Water is worth more than gold."
Argentina has become a hotspot for anti-fracking activism thanks to a deal the government struck with U.S. energy giant Chevron Corp. to extract oil and gas from sites in the Andes mountains. The state-run oil company YPF SA is partnering with Chevron on the $1.24 billion project, which aims to tap the world's second-largest reserve of shale gas.
Debates over the agreement were met with furious protests outside the legislature in August, and officials resorted to riot-style crowd control measures. The country is home to a thriving pro-environment movement, which frequently stages protests against out-of-country investment in energy and mineral extraction projects.