By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis received participants of the 2-day pre COP26 parliamentary meeting co-organised by the Italian Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall on Saturday morning as it concluded in Rome, and encouraged them to work for the common good and for the future of the next generations. The meeting's aim was to set the floor for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by Italy and the UK and scheduled to run in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November.
COP26 will bring together leaders from across the globe to advance climate action and promote implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s major legally-binding international treaty on climate change. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin is scheduled to participate as are many faith-based groups and religious leaders.
In his address, Pope Francis recalled having just signed a Joint Appeal, together with various religious leaders and scientists in view of the Summit. That document, he said, is the result of months of intense dialogue, and the Appeal is based on the “awareness of the unprecedented challenges that threaten us and life on our beautiful common home… and the necessity of an even deeper solidarity in the face of the global pandemic and of the growing concern” in that regard.
Convergence of religious leaders
He noted that a spirit of fraternity marked the process highlighting “an impressive convergence of all our different voices on two points. First, our sorrow at the grave harm inflicted on the human family and its common home; and second, the urgent need for a change of direction, in order to move decisively and firmly away from the throwaway culture, prevalent in our society, towards a culture of care.
In order to rise up to this challenge, he said: humanity needs to undergo genuine conversion and do so with steadfast determination. It is a responsibility, he added, that is especially “incumbent upon those called to positions of great responsibility in the various sectors of society.”
Pope Francis told those present that the Joint Appeal that he is symbolically presenting to them includes a number of commitments that pertain to the realms of action and education.
In fact, he continued, we are facing a significant educational challenge, since “all change requires an educational process aimed at developing a new universal solidarity and a more welcoming society”.
“The challenge to promote an education for an integral ecology is one to which we, the representatives of the religions, are firmly committed,” he said.
“At the same time,” he continued, “We appeal to governments to adopt without delay a course of action that would limit the average global temperature rise and to take courageous steps, including the strengthening of international cooperation. Specifically, we appeal to them to promote a transition towards clean energy; to adopt sustainable land use practices, preventing deforestation and restoring forests, conserving biodiversity, favouring food systems that are environmentally friendly and respectful of local cultures, working to end hunger and malnutrition, and to promote sustainable lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production.”
Reflecting on how such a transition implies a more integral and inclusive model of development, “one grounded in solidarity and responsibility,” the Pope said that everyone has a role to play to meet this challenge.
Politicians and government leaders are called to act with “wisdom, foresight and concern for the common good: in a word, the fundamental virtues of good politics.”
Laws must be rolled out in light of the common good and in respect for other fundamental principles such as the dignity of the human person, solidarity and subsidiarity, he explained.
And he noted that it is not just a matter of discouraging and penalizing improper practices, but of encouraging new paths to pursue: “paths better suited to the objectives we seek to achieve.”
“These are essential elements to be considered as we strive to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and to contribute to the positive outcome of COP26”, Pope Francis said.
He concluded reminding participants at the parliamentary meeting that we owe our best efforts to future generations so “they can live in hope.”