Pope Francis says that destroying the environment is a sin and we all have a responsibility to help stop climate change.
The Pope was speaking during the Catholic Church’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
He said that working to prevent climate change should be added to the more traditional Christian works of mercy such as helping the hungry and sick.
He added that the way we are destroying the planet is a sin and that we are turning it into a ‘polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation and filth’.
He also said that the people who would be the worst affected by climate change would be the ones who were least responsible for it – refugees and the poor.
Pope Francis said: “Global warming continues. 2015 was the warmest year on record, and 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events.
“Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact.”
The Pope said that we should question a system that is motivated by ‘profit and any price’ and use the ‘Holy Year of Mercy’ to ask for forgiveness for sins against the environment.
He added that it was time that taking care of the environment was added to the seven spiritual works of mercy outlined in the Gospel.
He said: “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence … We have no such right.”
Pope Francis said that people should all take responsibility by making small changes to their own lifestyles: “The resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live.”
He added that businesses should start to think further ahead than simply their own profit margins and look at working towards the ‘common good’ adding that there is an ‘ecological debt’ between the global north and south that needs to be resolved.
He said: “Repaying it would require treating the environments of poorer nations with care and providing the financial resources and technical assistance needed to help them deal with climate change and promote sustainable development.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is president of the Vatican’s council for peace and justice. He said: “The first step is to humbly acknowledge the harm we are doing to the Earth through pollution, the scandalous destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, and the spectre of climate change.
“And to realise that when we hurt the Earth, we also hurt the poor. We should not think that our efforts – even our small gestures – don’t matter. Virtue, including ecological virtue, can be infectious.”
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling