VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis and faith leaders closed the Season of Creation on Monday, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, as they began the ecumenical season: united in their call for governments to set ambitious targets at the upcoming UN climate summit.
His Holiness and about 40 faith leaders signed a joint appeal at the Vatican that calls on governments to set climate targets and take “urgent, radical, and responsible action” with young people and the most vulnerable among us in mind.
“Future generations will never forgive us if we miss the opportunity to protect our common home. We have inherited a garden; we must not leave a desert for our children,” the joint appeal stated.
“We plead with the international community gathered at COP26 to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore, and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”
Faith leaders from other Christian faiths and Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, among others, signed the joint appeal, which was then handed to Alok Sharma, the President of the United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference (COP26). The conference will take place from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow.
“Today shows us how we can and will turn the tide,” Sharma said, calling the appeal a “powerful call to action for the world.”
Pope Francis welcomed the faith leaders into the Vatican’s Hall of Blessings for the daylong event, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26.”
He framed the broader discussion by offering three values that should guide our work around caring for God’s creation: sharing, love, and respect.
“Today’s meeting, which brings together many cultures and spiritualities in a spirit of fraternity, can only strengthen our realization that we are members of one human family,” His Holiness shared in written remarks.
“COP26 in Glasgow represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations. We want to accompany it with our commitment and our spiritual closeness.”
Pope Francis plans to attend the UN summit, marking the first time in the past three decades that a Pope has attended a UN climate change conference.
His Holiness walked into the event alongside Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The two, along with Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, who also attended Monday’s meeting, began the monthlong Season of Creation by issuing their first-ever joint statement.
The historic message called on Christians and their communities to address the climate crisis by listening to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor and “pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the Earth which God has given us.”
Monday also marked more than a year since the publication of Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, his encyclical on fraternity and social friendship. His Holiness echoed its themes in his message to all.
“We cannot act alone, for each of us is fundamentally responsible to care for others and for the environment. This commitment should lead to an urgently needed change of direction, nurtured also by our respective religious beliefs and spirituality,” Pope Francis said.
“Each of us has his or her religious beliefs and spiritual traditions, but no cultural, political or social borders or barriers prevent us from standing together… Let us commit ourselves to a future shaped by interdependence and co-responsibility.”
By Jonathon Braden | Laudato Si’ Movement