Pope Francis Tackles Climate Change with Council of Cardinals

Pope Francis speaks with cardinals after the annual address to the Church's governing Curia at the Vatican on December 21, 2018 at the Vatican. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

ROME — Pope Francis discussed how the Catholic Church can be most effective in combatting climate change in his 41st meeting with his Council of Cardinals this week.

The issue of climate change figured prominently on the cardinals’ agenda for the three days of meetings, along with the war in Ukraine, and the role of women in the Church, according to a Vatican press release published Thursday.

The pope and cardinals focused particularly on preparing for the COP27 United Nations Climate Change conference to be held in Egypt in November 2022.

“Can we, as a Church, along with other denominations and religions, give a voice to these concerns?” was the question put forward for discussion.

During the meeting, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, the archbishop of Kinshasha (DRC), offered reflections on the world climate situation, looking back at the needs and expectations brought forward from the COP26 conference in Glasgow, with a special interest in the poor countries of Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Oceania.

Ever since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has made battling climate change a hallmark of his pontificate, and in 2015 became the first pope in history to publish an encyclical letter (Laudato Si) devoted entirely to the environment.

Francis issued a series of warnings prior to the COP26 climate conference, in which he called climate change “one of the great moral issues of our time.”

The pontiff said he had intended to take part in the Glasgow meeting but it did not “prove possible.”

He also appealed to the Catholics of Scotland to pray for world leaders, asking God for the gifts of wisdom and strength to meet this “grave challenge” with “concrete decisions.”

Humanity will be judged by God if it fails to effectively deal with the climate crisis, Francis cautioned.

In a separate message, the pope went so far as to compare the effects of climate change to those of World War II, in which tens of millions of people died.

“The wounds inflicted on our human family by the Covid-19 pandemic and the phenomenon of climate change are comparable to those resulting from a global conflict,” the pope said in his message.

“Today, as in the aftermath of the Second World War, the international community as a whole needs to set as a priority the implementation of collegial, solidary and farsighted actions,” he said.

Returning to the same analogy, Francis predicted that “in the near future, environmental migrants will be more numerous than refugees from war and conflicts.”

There is “no alternative” to battling climate change, he stated, underscoring the importance of “the goals set by the Paris Agreement” in 2015.

Employing still more powerful language, the pope said that humanity faces “an epochal change,” while pressing wealthier nations to “take a leading role in the areas of climate finance, decarbonization in the economic system and in people’s lives, the promotion of a circular economy, providing support to more vulnerable countries.”

There is “no denying” that wealthier nations have a growing “ecological debt” to poorer nations because of their “disproportionate use” of natural resources, Francis said.


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