Pope Francis Urges Nations to 'Listen to the Cry of the Earth'

The joint statement with other Christian leaders precedes November's climate conference.

Pope Francis

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An unprecedented joint statement from Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians is urging world leaders attending the upcoming Glasgow climate summit to embrace a more sustainable future. 

"We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us," the message said.

Referencing the ongoing pandemic, the three leaders—Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby of the Anglican Communion, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I—said that the pandemic has shown that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” and that our actions not only affect each other, but the world we seek to live in tomorrow. 

“These are not new lessons, but we have had to face them anew,” they write. “May we not waste this moment. We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations.”

In another section focused on sustainability, the spiritual leaders invoke passages from the Bible warning against greed and hoarding of resources with finite ends. Instead, they warn, the world is going in the opposite direction. 

“We’ve maximized our own interest at the expense of future generations. By concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage,” they write. “Technology has unfolded new possibilities for progress but also for accumulating unrestrained wealth, and many of us behave in ways which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the planet.” 

“Nature is resilient, yet delicate,” they add. “We are already witnessing the consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve it. Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction.” 

A New Warning

Only days after the Pope’s joint statement, the United Nations issued a new warning to the global community that country-specific plans to fight climate change are falling short of targets. Of the nearly 200 countries participating, the report found that emissions would actually rise 16% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. 

"The 16% increase is a huge cause for concern," Patricia Espinosa, the UN's chief climate negotiator, said in the report. "It is in sharp contrast [to] the calls by science for rapid, sustained, and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world."

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (October 31 to November 12, 2021), which Pope Francis plans to attend and address, the overarching goal again will be commitments to greater emissions reductions and the pooled monetary resources to pull it off. United Nations chief António Guterres told Reuters that the conference is at serious risk of not being a success, mainly due to global mistrust between North and South and developed and developing countries. 

"We need the developed countries to do more, namely in relation to the support to developing countries,” he urged. “And we need some emerging economies to go an extra mile and be more ambitious in the reduction of air emissions." 

It’s an appeal of cooperation that echoes the closing remarks of the Pope’s joint statement. 

“All of us—whoever and wherever we are—can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation,” it reads. “Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment. This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it."

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