In a video-message released on Earth Day, April 22, Pope Francis called on world leaders “to act with courage, to act with justice, and to always tell the truth to people, so that people know how to protect themselves from the destruction of the planet, and how to protect the planet from the destruction that many times we ourselves cause.”
He noted a connection between an increasing awareness of the need to protect the environment and the ongoing coronavirus emergency, saying the pandemic has shown us “what happens when the world stops… even for a few months.” He highlighted the “sadly positive” impact the global slowdown has had “on nature and climate change.”
Pope Francis’ message carried a sense of urgency, as he maintained that “both catastrophes” – the Covid pandemic and climate change – “shows us that we do not have time to wait. That time is pressing. And that, as Covid-19 has taught us, yes, we have the means to meet the challenge. We have the means. It is time to act, we have reached the limit.”
Citing “an old Spanish saying” that he has quoted in the past – God always forgives, we men sometimes forgive, nature no longer forgives – the Argentinian pontiff insisted that nonetheless there is still time to turn back the “destruction of nature.” “And we will be more resilient when we work together instead of the alone,” he maintained, adding, “The adversity we are experiencing with the pandemic, and which we are already feeling in climate change, must drive us, must spur us on to innovation, to invention, to seek out new paths.”
And, returning to an oft-repeated theme, he noted, “We do not come out of a crisis the same way, we come out better or worse.”
“This is the challenge,” he said, warning that “if we do not come out better, we are on a path of self-destruction.”
In a second video-message, also released on Thursday evening, Pope Francis praised the work of the Leaders Summit on Climate, an initiative of US President Joe Biden aimed at coordinating an international response to the climate crisis.
The Summit, said Pope Francis, “is an initiative that sets all of us, all of humanity through its leaders, on a journey.” That journey he said, looks ahead practically to the COP26 meeting set for November 2021, but “even more concretely, to take charge of the preservation of nature, of this gift we have received and that we have to heal, to guard, and to carry forward.”
He offered his best wishes for success “in this beautiful decision to meet, to move forward,” assuring the assembled world leaders that he is accompanying them in their efforts.
Pope Francis delivered both messages in Spanish, with the text of the messages released in both Spanish and Italian. As of the time of publication, the Holy See had not made translations of the Pope’s remarks available in other languages.