In his address to participants of the international conference on the third anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis, highlighted the urgent need to respond to the encyclical’s call for change, for an ecological conversion.
“Here we can think back on the call that Francis of Assisi received from the Lord in the little church of San Damiano: “Go and repair my house, which, as you can see, lies in ruins”. Today, the “common home” of our planet also needs urgently to be repaired and secured for a sustainable future,” stressed the Holy Father.
Pope Francis also noted with concern how the world’s contemporary, unsustainable lifestyle has stretched the planet’s capacity and precipitated catastrophes which continue to occur in different parts of the world. “There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse”, he added.
He however, expressed hope that by working together, through “decisive actions, here and now”, humanity has the knowledge and the means to cooperate in responsibly cultivating and protecting the earth”.
Shifting his focus to the next UN Climate Conference (COP24), slated for Katowice, Poland, in December, Pope Francis called on “all governments to strive to honour the commitments made in Paris, in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.” He further stressed that “reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most”. Highlighting the need for urgent action, Pope Francis stressed that “we cannot afford to waste time”.
Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II: “We must encourage and support an ‘ecological conversion‘” (Catechesis, 17 January 2001), Pope Francis reminded the audience that “transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds”, is necessary. “Here the religions, and the Christian Churches in particular, have a key role to play”, he noted.
For Pope Francis, young people and indigenous peoples are “at the forefront of efforts to foster an integral ecology”. He further observed that, “ it is the young who will have to face the consequences of the current environmental and climate crisis. Consequently, intergenerational solidarity “is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us”.” Pope Francis also strongly emphasised that “it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions.” He pointed out that we have a lot to learn from indigenous peoples, as their lives “are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home”.
Young people and indigenous peoples had a strong presence at the Laudato Si international conference, and as Pope Francis noted in his speech, “both will be at the centre of the next two Synods of the Catholic Church”.
In his conclusion, Pope Francis had words of encouragement for the participants, reminding them that “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”
“May Saint Francis continue to inspire and guide us on this journey, and may our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope”, said Pope Francis before imparting his blessing on those present.
Founder & Executive Director, CYNESA.