Pope Francis has united with Orthodox and Anglican leaders to urge people everywhere to “eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently” in an attempt to save the planet from destruction.
In their first ever joint statement, the Pope joined Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to plead with people everywhere “to listen to the cry of the earth”.
“What we do today affects what happens tomorrow,” said the three Christian leaders in their “Joint Message for the Protection of Creation”, which was signed on September 1 but released only on Tuesday.
They said people were behaving in ways “which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the planet” and instead should adopt “a broader outlook” which recognised “our place in the extended story of humanity”.
The results of selfishness and greed, they said, could be seen in biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change.
Yet “the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them,” they said.
The religious leaders said the environmental crises of “tomorrow could be worse” and called upon all people to examine their behaviour and to pledge to make “meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us”.
They invited everyone to “eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits”.
They said: “We repent of our generation’s sins. We stand alongside our younger sisters and brothers throughout the world in committed prayer and dedicated action for a future which corresponds ever more to the promises of God.”
“Nature is resilient, yet delicate,” they said. “Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction. We must pursue generosity and fairness in the ways that we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.”
“We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations,” they said.
“The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival,” said the statement.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” they added, because “our actions really do affect one another.”
The three leaders noted that it was is the first time they have felt compelled to jointly address “the urgency of sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation”.
But they said “caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment,” adding: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”
The statement was issued during the 2021 Season of Creation but comes ahead of the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, known as COP26.
The protection of the earth from destructive human behaviour has been a constant theme in the pontificate of Francis.
In 2015, the Pope further developed Catholic Social Teaching on the environment with his landmark encyclical, Laudato Si.
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