Pope Francis Laments Island Peoples’ ‘Extreme’ Exposure to Climate Change

In this Aug. 22, 2018 file photo, Pope Francis is caught in pensive mood during his weekly general audience at the Vatican. Francis' papacy has been thrown into crisis by accusations that he covered-up sexual misconduct by ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File)
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File

ROME — Pope Francis on Friday decried the injustices people living on islands face, underscoring at a conference their disproportionate exposure to the effects of climate change.

Addressing participants in the online conference, “Building Fraternity, Defending Justice: Challenges and Opportunities for Insular Peoples,” cosponsored by the Vatican’s office for Human Development and the Anglican Centre of Rome, the pontiff highlighted the need to confront “the particular challenges faced by insular peoples.”

Many island peoples “are exposed to extreme environmental and climate changes, some of which result from an unbridled exploitation of natural and human resources,” he asserted. “As a result, they are experiencing not only environmental deterioration but also a human and social deterioration that increasingly puts at risk the lives of the inhabitants of these island and sea territories.”

The pope went on to urge the conference to contribute to “the development of practical international and regional policies aimed at meeting such challenges more effectively and strengthening the awareness of everyone’s responsibility to care for our common home.”

Among other injustices faced by island peoples, Francis also referenced “violence, terrorism, poverty, hunger and the many forms of social and economic injustice and inequality that nowadays bring harm to all, but in particular to women and children.”

As he has done in the past, the pope also endeavored to link climate change to the coronavirus pandemic as two intertwined and overlapping crises.

“In these months of pandemic, we have become ever more conscious of our fragility and consequently of the need for an integral ecology that can sustain not only physical ecosystems but human ones as well,” he said.

“Since everything is interconnected, genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others,” he declared, which calls for “an unwavering commitment to resolve the environmental and social problems affecting those living in island and maritime areas.”

“I am grateful for the ongoing efforts being made to build fraternity and defend justice in the societies of these regions,” he concluded, “and I trust that the work accomplished during this meeting will be a sign of the important role that island peoples can play in furthering the growth of a more human and inclusive world.”

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