As the Bonn climate conference moves towards its conclusion on Friday, the Vatican’s foreign minister has urged political and religious leaders, alongside individuals and organisations, to “maintain the momentum” on environmental protection.
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, was speaking after an encounter with leaders of Pacific Island nations, who met with Pope Francis on their way to the Bonn conference.
Describing the 2015 Paris agreement as “near miraculous”, Archbishop Gallagher said “The international community has rarely come together on an issue like this,” but he added that accord is “only a beginning”.
Impact of 'Laudato Sì'
He talked about the important impact of the pope’s encyclical ‘Laudato Sì’ praising the many efforts and initiatives which have taken place since the publication of both the Paris agreement and the papal encyclical. He said there have been “literally thousands of initiatives making the teaching of encyclical known, but also […] reflecting on the fact that this is part of the church’s teaching on a much wider issue [...] of integral human development.”
Bigger picture of human development
Stressing the need for the Church to continue to be part of climate change discussions, the Archbishop said “This is something in which the Church is engaged because that is what religion is about. The Incarnation is God’s commitment to humanity and we have to continue that commitment to securing the future of humanity, both spiritually and creating the conditions in which people can aspire to know God, to love God, to live together and love their neighbours”.
Nations and individuals working together
Archbishop Gallagher noted that there are “dissident voices” but he said the Church is “looking forward to greater commitment both by the state parties”, as well as individuals and organisations.
While the situation is very different in Pacific nations or in industrialised countries, he said, one of the great achievements of the Paris agreement was to bring together not just countries and the Holy See, but also Catholics organisations, dioceses and individuals, working together to reach local areas, “even in countries which are possibly modifying their position towards the agreement”.
Need to change lifestyles
Archbishop Gallagher said the Church will continue to support the “great environmental warriors” but it must also “give a good example as well, which is not always easy”.
He stressed the importance of lifestyle changes that are “demanded of all of us, whether it’s just giving up using your plastic bags when you go to the supermarket, or modifying some part of your behaviour, recycling or using your car a little less and walking a little more”, all of which can contribute to the work of combating climate change.