The world’s three main Christian leaders issued an unprecedented joint appeal to members of their churches to “listen to the cry of the earth” and back action to stem the effects of climate change.
In their first-ever joint statement, the three Christian clerics said the coronavirus pandemic gave political leaders an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the global economy and make it more sustainable and socially just for the poor.
In “A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asked Christians to pray that world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November make courageous choices.
“We call on everyone, whatever their belief or world view, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the message said.
“We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations … The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival,” they said.
Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of the world’s some 220 million Orthodox Christians, Francis heads the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church and Welby is the senior bishop of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has about 85 million members.
All three have been very active in environmental affairs and concur that climate change and global warming is at least partially caused by human activities such as the use of fossil fuels.
“This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation,” they wrote.
“We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” the message said.
The statement was dated September 1, when their churches celebrate the world day for the care of creation. There was no official explanation for why it was released a week late, though the Vatican is essentially closed for business in August, suggesting summer holidays might have been to blame.
Europe had its warmest summer on record this year, though only by a small margin over two previous highest temperatures for June-August, European Union scientists said earlier on Tuesday, and green groups have called for the COP26 conference to be postponed. read more
Typically delegates from more than 190 countries attend the annual talks, yet with many countries grappling with Covid-19 and poorer nations struggling to access vaccines, it should be delayed, the Climate Action Network (CAN) said.
Bartholomew’s office did not immediately respond to an email about his plans to attend the conference.
Scotland’s bishops have said Pope Francis, who underwent intestinal surgery in July, will take part in the Glasgow conference, health permitting.
A spokeswoman for Welby said he would attend.
On October 4, the Vatican will host a major gathering of world religious leaders and scientists to take a common stand to raise the stakes ahead of the Glasgow conference.
Called “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” is being organised by Britain and Italy. It will bring together some 40 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 scientists.