Francis: The Problem of Climate Change Is ‘a Religious Problem’

(Nuns hold a banner of Pope Francis reading “I ask you in the name of God to defend Mother Earth” during the Global Climate March in Bogota, Colombia, on November 29, 2015, on the eve of the UN conference on climate change COP 21, to take place in Paris). 

ROME — Pope Francis asserted Sunday that the global climate crisis is “a religious problem” whose roots lie in humanity ’s “presumption of self-sufficiency.”

The pope’s words, read by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, were penned for the inauguration of the “Faith Pavilion” at the COP28 U.N. Climate Summit in Dubai, an initiative meant to harness religions for the cause of fighting global warming.

In his address, the pontiff offered special thanks to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, along with the Muslim Council of Elders, for their key role in setting up the pavilion. Conspicuous by their absence were any Jewish organizations in the interreligious mishmash.

May this Pavilion “become a place of encounter and may religions always be ‘welcoming spaces’ that witness to our need for the transcendent, speak of fraternity, respect and mutual care, and refuse to justify in any way the mistreatment of creation,” the pope said in his message.

“It is important to see ourselves, beyond our differences, as brothers and sisters in the one human family,” he added, “and, as believers, to remind ourselves and the world that, as sojourners on this earth, we have a duty to protect our common home.”

Protecting life “entails opposing the rapacious illusion of omnipotence that is devastating our planet,” Francis said. “That insatiable desire for power wells up whenever we consider ourselves lords of the world, whenever we live as though God did not exist and, as a result, end up prey to passing things.”

As he has frequently done, the pope also called for “urgent” action on behalf of the environment, which includes increased spending by first world nations as well as an “ecological conversion.”

“We need, urgently, to act for the sake of the environment,” he said. “It is not enough merely to increase spending: we need to change our way of life and thus educate everyone to sober and fraternal lifestyles.”

This is “an essential obligation for religions, which are called to teach contemplation, since creation is not only an ecosystem to preserve, but also a gift to embrace,” he said.

Francis also tied the fight against climate change to peace efforts in Ukraine and the Middle East, underscoring “the extent to which peace and the stewardship of creation are interdependent.”

“Before our very eyes, we can see how wars and conflicts are harming the environment and dividing nations, hindering a common commitment to addressing shared problems like the protection of the planet,” he said.