The world’s three top Christian leaders have made an unprecedented joint appeal on climate change to members of their churches, urging them to “listen to the cry of the earth” and support action aimed at protecting the environment.
Looking ahead at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, leaders of the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches—Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew—issued a statement on September 1 titled “A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation.”
Their message seeks to mobilize the 1.3 billion members of the Catholic Church, 220 million Orthodox Christians, and 85 million members of the Anglican Communion.
All three are noted for their environmental activism, agreeing that the planet’s rapidly changing climate is the result at least partly of humanity’s overuse of fossil fuels.
The 84-year-old pontiff, who underwent surgery in July, is expected to attend the Glasgow conference on climate change, health permitting. A spokesperson for Welby told Reuters that he, too, will attend. Bartholomew has not yet confirmed his attendance.
“For more than a year, we have all experienced the devastating effects of a global pandemic—all of us, whether poor or wealthy, weak or strong,” began their September 1 joint statement. “We realized that, in facing this worldwide calamity, no one is safe until everyone is safe, that our actions really do affect one another, and that what we do today affects what happens tomorrow.”
The message was released at the start of the Season of Creation, celebrated annually September 1 through October 4 as an opportunity to pray and care for God’s creation.
The leaders of the world’s major Christian denominations called “on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.”
The vital need for social, economic and environmental sustainability is rooted in the “concept of stewardship—of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment.”
“In the New Testament, we read of the rich and foolish man who stores great wealth of grain while forgetting about his finite end…. We learn of the prodigal son who takes his inheritance early, only to squander it and end up hungry…. We are cautioned against adopting short-term and seemingly inexpensive options of building on sand, instead of building on rock for our common home to withstand storms.”
“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.”
“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,” wrote the three Christian leaders. “Together, on behalf of our communities, we appeal to the heart and mind of every Christian, every believer and every person of good will.”
On October 4, the final day of the Season of Creation and the feast day of Pope Francis’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the Vatican is hosting a gathering of the world’s religious leaders and scientists to express solidarity with efforts to curtail climate change in the run-up to the Glasgow conference.
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