ROME — Pope Francis thanked a group of French ecologists in the Vatican Thursday for their efforts to “save the environment,” which is undergoing a “disturbing degradation.”
“While the state of the planet may seem catastrophic and some situations even seem irreversible, we Christians always keep hope, because our eyes are turned to Jesus Christ,” the pope told the group of participants in an academic conference devoted to his 2015 encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Sì.
Mistreating the world “can only lead to serious consequences, not only environmental, but also social and human,” Francis told them.
“It is fortunate that an awareness of the urgency of the situation is now appearing everywhere and that the theme of ecology more and more permeates mentalities at all levels and begins to have an influence on political and economic choices,” the pontiff declared, “even if there is still much to do and if we are witnessing too much slowness and even backtracking.”
The pope said that the role of the Catholic church in the environmental cause is not technical or economic, but consists in “educating consciences to promote a deep and lasting ecological conversion.”
An ecological conversion, he reiterated, is “the only one capable of responding to the important challenges facing us.”
Man is called to be a steward of creation, not “the owner or the despot,” Francis said. “When one considers nature only as an object of profit and interest — a vision that consolidates the will of the strongest — then harmony is broken and serious inequalities, injustices, and suffering appear.”
It is the “same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same pretension of believing oneself the master and the despot of the world,” Francis said, that leads people “to exploit poverty, abuse the work of women and children, overturn the laws of the family unit, and no longer respect the human right to life from conception to natural death.”
In his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on Tuesday, the pope restated his belief that humanity is “in the midst of a climate emergency,” and, therefore, “climate restoration is of utmost importance”
“We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us,” he declared. “We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic.”