Pope Francis received participants at a conference on the third anniversary of the encyclical Laudato si' in an audience in the Sala Clementina on Friday. In his remarks to the group, Pope Francis said, “Your presence here is a sign of your commitment to take concrete steps to save the planet and the life it sustains, inspired by the Encyclical’s assumption that ‘everything is connected.’” That principle, he said, “lies at the heart of an integral ecology.”
Pope Francis noted the “increasingly accurate assessments” of the scientific community concerning the environment. “There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts, and refuse,” he said.”
But he expressed his hope that “concern for the state of our common home” would be translated into concrete actions to preserve the environment. In particular, he called on governments to honour their commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement “in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.” The COP24 Summit, he said, “could prove a milestone on the path set out” by the Agreement.
He also mentioned the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit, taking place in San Francisco in September, while urging the support of “citizens’ pressure groups” to provide support. In addition, he said, financial institutions also “have an important role to play, as part both of the problem and its solution.”
“All of these actions,” Pope Francis said, “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds.” He reiterated Pope St John Paul’s calls for an “ecological conversion,” and emphasised the role of religions, and especially Christianity, in working to that end.
Finally, the Pope stressed the importance of making space for young people and indigenous peoples in efforts “to foster an integral ecology.” Young people are at the centre of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, set for October of this year; while the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region will meet in 2019.
In his conclusion, Pope Francis acknowledged that “challenges are not lacking.” He expressed his gratitude for the efforts of participants “in the service of care for creation and a better future for our children and grandchildren.” Despite the presence of special interests which make those efforts seem “arduous,” Pope Francis encouraged them, saying, “Please continue to work for ‘the radical change which present circumstances require.’ For ‘injustice is not invincible.’”