VATICAN CITY — The future of humanity depends on what people choose now, Pope Francis said in his message to global leaders at the World Climate Action Summit of the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
“Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?” he asked in his message. “To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future!”
“The purpose of power is to serve. It is useless to cling to an authority that will one day be remembered for its inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so. History will be grateful to you,” the pope wrote.
Excerpts from Pope Francis’ full written message were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Dec. 2 during the high-level segment with heads of state and government at the climate conference, COP28, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 30-Dec. 12.
Pope Francis was to have been the first pope to attend the U.N. climate conference Dec. 1-3 but canceled his trip Nov. 28 after coming down with a serious bronchial infection.
The destruction of the environment is “a sin” that not only “greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable,” he wrote, but it also “threatens to unleash a conflict between generations.”
“The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation,” the pope wrote. People must recognize their limits with humility and courage and seek authentic fulfillment.
“What stands in the way of this? The divisions that presently exist among us,” he wrote.
The world “should not be un-connected by those who govern it, with international negotiations that ‘cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good,’” he wrote, quoting from his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home.”
“We have a grave responsibility,” he wrote, which is to ensure the earth, the poor and the young not be denied a future.
The solution requires coming together as brothers and sisters living in a common home, rebuilding trust and pursuing multilateralism, he added.
The care for creation and world peace are closely linked, the pope wrote.
“How much energy is humanity wasting on the numerous wars” being waged, he wrote, and “how many resources are being squandered on weaponry that destroys lives and devastates our common home!”
“Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces,” Pope Francis wrote. “And with God’s help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day.”
Faith Pavilion inaugurated
The world needs people to build alliances that are not against others, but are in favor of everyone, Pope Francis told faith leaders at the climate change conference.
“It is important that religions, without falling into the trap of syncretism, set a good example by working together: not for their own interests or those of one party, but for the interests of our world. Among these, the most important nowadays are peace and the climate,” he said in a video message at the inauguration of the first Faith Pavilion at a U.N. climate conference.
“As religious representatives, let us set an example to show that change is possible and bear witness to respectful and sustainable lifestyles,” he said, speaking in Spanish at the Vatican.
He thanked the organizers for establishing a religious pavilion as part of a COP “because this testifies to the willingness to work together.”
“At the present time the world needs alliances that are not against someone, but in favor of everyone,” he said.
“With a loud voice, let us implore leaders of nations that our common home be preserved,” he said. “Let us safeguard creation and protect our common home; let us live in peace and promote peace!”
The pope also had a longer speech prepared for the inauguration and that was read in Dubai by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and president of the Vatican’s delegation at the climate conference.
The pope wrote in his talk, “the problem of climate change is also a religious problem: its roots lie in the creature’s presumption of self-sufficiency.”
Religions are “voices of conscience for humanity,” he wrote, and remind people that “we are finite creatures” with a need for the infinite and the duty to care for creation.
The Faith Pavilion was hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 presidency, the U.N. Environment Program and more than 50 faith organizations. It was hosting events that bring together representatives from religions, civil society, Indigenous peoples, scientists, young people and political leaders.
The inauguration event Dec. 3 opened with a video message from Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, who greeted Pope Francis and wished him “a speedy and thorough recovery, health and well-being.”
Both Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb were shown on video signing the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change for COP28 that had been drafted and signed by more than two dozen other religious representatives at a global faith leaders’ summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 6-7.
The statement called for “inclusive dialogue, during and beyond COPs, with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women’s organizations and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development,” and it “demands transformative action to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities.”
The full text of the pope’s written address can be found at stlreview.com/419AQDb