By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis on Friday, offered some reflections on building together in the face of the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic to listeners of the BBC “Thought of the Day” radio column, as world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow for the UN COP26 Climate Change Conference.
“Climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic have exposed our deep vulnerability and raised numerous doubts and concerns about our economic systems and the way we organize our societies,” the Pope said in an audio/video message.
However, “every crisis calls for vision, the ability to formulate plans and put them rapidly into action, to rethink the future of the world, our common home, and to reassess our common purpose.”
The devastating toll of the crises
Pope Francis pointed at the impact of the many crises impacting society. He noted that “we have lost our sense of security, and are experiencing a sense of powerlessness and loss of control over our lives.”
More so, “we find ourselves increasingly frail and even fearful, caught up in a succession of ‘crises’ in the areas of health care, the environment, food supplies and the economy, to say nothing of social, humanitarian and ethical crises.”
All these crises, he said, “are profoundly interconnected” and they forecast a ‘perfect storm’ that could rupture the bonds holding society together within the greater gift of God’s creation.
Confronting crises together
The Pope highlighted that moments of difficulty such as these present opportunities that we “must not waste,” even though the crises present us with the need to take “radical decisions that are not always easy.”
“We can confront these crises by retreating into isolationism, protectionism and exploitation. Or we can see in them a real chance for change, a genuine moment of conversion, and not simply in a spiritual sense,” he said.
Stressing that we cannot emerge from a crisis alone, the Holy Father affirmed that the most important lesson we can take from the crises is our need to “build together so that there will no longer be any borders, barriers or political walls for us to hide behind.”
In this regard, moving towards a brighter horizon can only be achieved through “a renewed sense of shared responsibility for our world, and an effective solidarity based on justice, a sense of our common destiny and a recognition of the unity of our human family in God’s plan for the world.”
All these, he added, “represent an immense cultural change,” which means giving priority to the common good that calls for “a change in perspective, a new outlook, in which the dignity of every human being, now and in the future, will guide our ways of thinking and acting.”
Need for urgent change of direction sustained by faith
The Holy Father then recalled a meeting on 4 October, with religious leaders and scientists, to sign a Joint Appeal calling upon leaders to act in a more responsible and consistent manner toward a “culture of care” for our common home, and to work tirelessly to eliminate “the seeds of conflicts,” including greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence.
During that meeting, the Pope noted that he was struck by a scientist’s concern that “If things continue as they are, in fifty years’ time [his] baby granddaughter will have to live in an unliveable world”.
To forestall this, Pope Francis stressed the need for everyone to be “committed to this urgent change of direction, sustained by our own faith and spirituality.”
He further noted that never before has humanity had so many means for achieving this goal at its disposal.
As preparations enter their final stages for the November 1-12 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Pope Francis urged the political decision-makers who will be present to “provide effective responses to the present ecological crisis and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.”
The Pope concluded his message by extending an invitation to all – whoever and wherever we may be – to play our own part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and the degradation of our common home.
The “Thought for the Day” is a slot on the “Today Programme” on BBC Radio 4 which offers reflections on different pertinent issues through a spiritual perspective.