Pope Francis greets the crowd at the end of his weekly general audience at St Peter’s square on June 17, 2015 at the Vatican.
Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto/Sipa

The release Thursday of Pope Francis’s impassioned encyclical on climate change sparked a flurry of press coverage and a question for the U.S. publishing industry: Who will issue it as a book?

The 183-page document, which the pontiff addresses to “every person living on this planet,” attributes global warming to human activity and accuses the global market economy of plundering the Earth.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has exclusive U.S rights to publish the encyclical for 30 days. It is now available for preorder on the conference website for $13.95. The book, titled “On Care for Our Common Home,” will be in stock on June 25, said Matthew Kilmurry, a conference spokesman.

After that, the book will be up for grabs, and could be released by multiple publishers. Contracts would be issued by the official publishing office of the Vatican, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

John Glusman, editor-in-chief of W.W. Norton’s trade division, which published the 9/11 Commission Report, said his house won’t publish the encyclical because it wouldn’t be in keeping with the company’s history of secular titles.

“But I think it’s a wonderful idea,” he said. “It sounds absolutely fascinating.”

Likely publishing contenders include Image, a Catholic imprint of Random House that published Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”; and Melville House, which published the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture.

Representatives for Image and Random House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dennis Loy Johnson, publisher of Melville House, said he already has reached out to the rights department of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We’d be excited and honored to publish it,” he said. “This kind of activist publishing is exactly what Melville House is all about.”

Mr. Johnson noted that Pope Francis’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, published a series of bestsellers. Speaking of the climate-change statement, he said, “This is now the mission of all these church units. It’s not only a significant statement by the pope but a significant statement of what the organization is going to get behind. It’s the real shot in the arm for a movement.”

Speaking of the climate-change encyclical, he said, “This is now the mission of all these church units. It’s not only a significant statement by the pope but a significant statement of what the organization is going to get behind. It’s the real shot in the arm for a movement.”

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