More so than any other pontiff in history, Pope Francis has assumed a major role in the fight against climate change and the outspoken Catholic leader looks set to cause major waves at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
In an interview with German news portal Spiegel Online on Tuesday, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Vaticans Pontifical Academy of Sciences, says Francis was disappointed by last years UN climate conference in Lima and was now seeking to fire up this years talks.
While the Pope is not expected to personally take part in the Paris conference, he is working to inspire with divine influence through the publication of his encyclical on ecology and climate change later this year.
Speaking to reporters about his views on climate change while traveling to the Philippines earlier this month, the Pope said he did not know whether it was all the fault of humans, but the majority is. For the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature.
Francis made the point that humans had lorded over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth, adding, I think man has gone too far. Thank God that today there are voices that are speaking out about this.
A violent storm forced the Pope to cut short his visit to the Philippine city of Tacloban, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Before he left, the pontiff warned the Philippines was set to be one of the countries worst affected by climate change.
Religions of the world: Unite!
At a recent meeting with the London-based Catholic development agency CAFOD, Sánchez Sorondo said, Our academics supported the Popes initiative to influence next years crucial decisions. The idea is to convene a meeting with leaders of the main religions to make all people aware of the state of our climate and the tragedy of social exclusion.
Francis is expected to meet other religious leaders and lobby politicians at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, when countries will sign up to new anti-poverty and environmental goals, according to U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
Addressing CAFODs annual Pope Paul VI lecture in November, Sánchez Sorondo spoke about climate change and poverty, described as the two biggest threats of our time.
We still have time to act. The challenge of climate change has become not only economic, political or social. It is also an issue of morals, religion, values such as justice and social inclusion, the obligation of solidarity with future generations and the moral obligation to care for the earth, namely creation, which is our habitat. And this is the point of concern for the Pope.
Sánchez Sorondo added that economic activity was measured only in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and does not take into account the degradation of the Earth that goes with it, nor of the unjust inequalities between countries and within each country.
The technological and operating means to achieve a truly sustainable development are already available or within reach, Sánchez Sorondo said. We can put an end to extreme poverty with targeted investments to promote access to sustainable energy, education, health, housing, social infrastructure and livelihood for the poor.
Speaking to Spiegel Online, the bishop said, Humanity, created in the image of God, should be the guardian of creation. But climate change has had adverse effects on the poorest two-thirds of humanity who have no access to fossil fuels, but who bear the consequences of consumption.
Sánchez Sorondo added that Bartholomew I, patriarch of Constantinople and head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, compared climate change with modern slavery at the conference of religious leaders in December.