Pope Francis on Saturday issued a call to action against pollution, describing the state of ocean littering as an “emergency,” while the church’s sex abuse scandal intensifies.
In honor of World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Francis made the appeal in a message to galvanize Christians and others to work to save what he hails as the “marvelous,” God-given gift of the “great waters and all they contain.” The pope said efforts to fight plastic litter must be waged “as if everything depended on us.”
“Sadly, all too often many efforts fail due to the lack of effective regulation and means of control, particularly with regard to the protection of marine areas beyond national confines,” Francis said. “We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic.”
“Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency,” he added.
Further, the pope called for Christians to both pray and work hard to achieve their goals for a cleaner planet. “We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence and work as if everything depended on us,” Francis said.
Without naming specific corporations, Francis criticized the ever-increasing trend of privatizing water, calling access to water a “human right.”
The pope also took a veiled jab at European countries, such as Italy and Malta, who have begun cracking down on migrants reaching their shores by boat and said that he prays “waters may not be a sign of separation of peoples, but of encounter for the human community.”
“Let us pray that those who risk their lives at sea in search of a better future may be kept safe,” the pope said.
Speaking before oil and gas executives in June, Pope Frances called for a “long-term global strategy,” to combat climate change, citing the 2015 Paris Climate Accord as an important first step.
“As you know, in December 2015, 196 Nations negotiated and adopted the Paris Agreement, with a firm resolve to limit the growth in global warming to below 2° centigrade, based on pre-industrial levels, and, if possible, to below 1.5° centigrade,” he said. “Some two-and-a-half years later, carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases remain very high. This is disturbing and a cause for real concern.”
The call to action comes amid growing outrage over the pope’s handling of the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the church. At least 1,000 children were molested by over 300 Roman Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, as senior church officials took steps to cover it up, according to a landmark grand jury report released earlier this month. “The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation.”
The Vatican’s secretary of state says Pope Francis is “serene” despite the “bitterness and concern” in the Vatican over accusations that he covered up for an American ex-cardinal accused of sexual misconduct. Cardinal Pietro Parolin says accusations from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano created “great pain” within the Vatican.“Pope Francis is a grace, including with these things that obviously create such bitterness and concern, but he has the ability to maintain a serene approach,” Parolin said. In an interview Thursday with Vatican Insider, a website close to Francis, Parolin declined to comment on the contents of Vigano’s claims, repeating Francis’ invitation to read it and judge.
Pope Francis has lamented how Irish church authorities failed to respond to the crimes of sexual abuse, speaking during his first public appearance at the Vatican after bombshell accusations that he himself covered up for an American cardinal’s misdeeds.
Francis dedicated his general audience Wednesday to his weekend trip to Ireland. The final day of the trip was overshadowed by release of a devastating document from a retired Holy See diplomat accusing Vatican authorities, including Francis, of covering up for ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick despite knowing for years that he slept with seminarians. The pope omitted from his remarks a line in his prepared text noting how he had prayed in Ireland for the Virgin Mary to intervene to give the church strength to “firmly pursue truth and justice” to help victims heal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.