As the fires in the Amazon region continue to blaze, Pope Francis today issued a new message in which he reminds the world and its political and civil leaders that “we have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.”
In the message, which the Vatican released today, he calls for “prophetic action” and “prayer” by Christians and people of good will. He said, “Our prayers and appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders” and getting them to take urgent action. The pope said he was thinking especially of “those governments that will meet in coming months to renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death.”
Pope Francis said that the forthcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit “is of particular importance.” The summit is aimed at accelerating actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Another upcoming climate conference is COP25, which will be held in Chile in December this year and will bring together world leaders (in government, civil society, the private sector and environmental organizations) to call for more ambitious action on climate change.
Pope Francis described how “egoism and self-interest” have created the “climate emergency” by turning creation, “a place of encounter and sharing,” into “an arena of competition and conflict.” He noted that there is “urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed.”
The pope said, “Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots.”
He issued his message on Sept.1, the day the Catholic Church worldwide is celebrating the fifth World Day of Prayer for Creation. He said this is an ecumenical venture together with the other Christian churches, and especially with the Orthodox churches that started this initiative 30 years ago. But, he explained, it is no longer “one day” of prayer and reflection, but rather “a Season of Creation” that begins on Sept. 1 and ends on Oct.4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. He called on Christians to use this period as a season to “reflect on our lifestyles” and how they affect the environment.
The pope referred to the upcoming Amazon synod when he called for Christians to “learn to listen to indigenous peoples, whose age-old wisdom can teach us how to live in a better relationship with the environment.” He described the synod and the governmental meetings as “opportunities to respond to the cry of the poor and of our earth.”
In his message, Pope Francis also called for the voices of young people to be heard on the climate emergency. He noted that “many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions.” He might have been thinking of young people like Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student whom he met in the Vatican last April 17. He added, “the young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down.”
“They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now,” he said. “We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions.”