Pope Francis: A healthy environment is right of every human being

In a message to the Council of Europe, Pope Francis reiterates his call for immediate action to protect our common home. The message was sent on the occasion of a panel of discussion on environment and human rights organized by the Council’s Assembly in preparation for the COP26 on climate change.

By Lisa Zengarini

Ahead of the COP-26 in Glasgow, the Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has convened a high-level panel and interactive debate on theme: “The environment and human rights” on Wednesday. The “right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment” will be the focus of its Autumn Session taking place in Strasburg from 27 to 30 September 2021.

In a video message to the participants sent on Wednesday, Pope Francis commended the initiative and the Council of Europe’s efforts on this fundamental issue, reiterating his call for immediate action for the care of our common home.

He said that the Holy See, although an Observer nation, follows with particular attention all the Organization’s activity in this regard, “in the conviction that every concrete initiative and decision which can improve the dramatic situation facing our planet's health must be supported and valued.”

Earth is greatest resource God has given us

He recalled his previous address to the PACE of 25 November 2014, in which he reminded that the earth “is the greatest resource which God has given to us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that (…) we can live in this world with dignity.”

He also referred to his Encyclical Letter Laudato si' highlighting the importance of caring for our common home, as “a universal principle that involves not only the Christians, but every person of good will who has the protection of the environment at heart.”

While commending the convening of the debate as a “valid contribution” to the COP-26, Pope Francis pointed out that any initiative of the Council of Europe should not be limited to the European continent, but “reach out to the whole world”.

This is why, he said, the Council’s determination to create of a new legal framework linking the care of environment to the respect of fundamental human rights is particularly appreciated by the Holy See.

Change of course urgently needed

The message further noted that “when the human being considers himself the master of the universe and not its responsible steward, he or she justifies any kind of waste and treats the other people and nature as mere objects,” denying “the fundamental right of every person to live with dignity and to develop integrally.”

The Holy Father therefore warned against modern consumerism, which has caused so much damage, reiterating his call for a “change of course”.

“Everything is connected, and as a family of nations we must have a common concern: to see that the environment is cleaner, purer and preserved. And take care of nature, so that it takes care of us,” he said.

A collective responsibility

He therefore insisted on the “individual and collective responsibilities” to ensure everybody’s right to a “safe, healthy and sustainable environment,” especially for the future generations.

Finally, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe will be able “to identify, promote and implement, with determination, all the initiatives necessary to build a healthier, fairer and more sustainable world.”

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29 September 2021, 16:44