Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, favoring what’s been called “papal athleisure” over the fine silks worn by his predecessors, and urging Christians to forego greed. He doesn’t want to be a millionaire. But will he turn down the chance to donate a million dollars to the charity of his choice? That’s what a group of celebrity vegans, led by 12-year-old Genesis Butler, are offering if Pope Francis goes vegan for Lent.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

The group Million Dollar Vegan launched earlier this month by sending a letter from the young activist newspapers around the world. Butler’s open letter to the pope appeals to Francis’ concerns about climate change, environmental degradation and poverty. “In your encyclical letter, Laudato si’, you stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production and consumption. I agree with all my heart and seek your support in tackling one of the largest underlying causes of the problems we face: animal agriculture.” An encyclical is a papal letter sent to all the Catholic bishops.

Related: If you won’t go vegan for yourself, will you do it for Beyoncé?

Genesis Butler holding a chicken

Butler chose to go vegan at the age of six. She’s the founder of a nonprofit called Genesis for Animals and is the youngest person to give a TEDx talk. Million Dollar Vegan is a nonprofit campaign, launched by Matthew Glover and Jane Land, with a mission to fight climate change with diet change. Vegan heavyweights like Paul McCartney, Moby, Mean Suvari and Woody Harrelson support the campaign.

Lent is the six-week period before Easter. Catholics mark this solemn time with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the Catholic tradition, fasting means significantly reducing food intake, rather than abstaining completely. Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. However, also giving up fish, eggs and dairy is a big jump.

The whole world is watching to see whether Pope Francis will agree to change his diet for six weeks. “We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency,” Glover said. “We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out on these issues and that is why we are humbly asking him to try vegan for Lent and set an example of how each of us can align our principles of caring and compassion with our actions.”

+ Million Dollar Vegan

Images via Million Dollar Vegan and Pete Souza