By Devin Watkins
The Holy See Press Office held a press conference on Thursday to present the “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” meeting, which will take place on 4 October.
The event, which is organized by the UK’s and Italy’s Embassies to the Holy See, will see numerous faith leaders and scientists address the theme of climate change and the need for a coordinated effort to protect Creation.
Pope Francis will likely participate in the 4 October event, according to Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States.
Presenting the Holy See’s role in preparing the meeting, the Archbishop said the Pope is very committed to the issue of climate change and that he would be “very surprised if the Holy Father does not participate.”
But, he noted, the Holy See will formally confirm Pope Francis’ participation at a later date.
Role of faith in climate solutions
Archbishop Gallagher also pointed out that climate change presents an enormous challenge and that faith has a role to play in the solution.
“You’ve got to draw on all of your resources if we’re going to rise to these challenges,” he said, “and that certainly is faith; it is religion and the spiritual dimension of humanity. If we ignore that and think that the only solution is good politics or good science then we’re going to find that we’re not successful.”
The Archbishop went on to add that the sense of urgency has grown about the need to confront climate change, saying that the pandemic has shown how various economic, social, and alimentary crises affect all people on the planet.
As the Pope has said, “everything is connected”, and so these challenges must be dealt with together, which is an aspect that people of religion can contribute to in a unique fashion, said Archbishop Gallagher.
“Religion,” he noted, “is a sort of integrated vision of life, the world, and everything in it. Religion embraces all the issues that affect our human existence.”
‘Faith and Science’
Sally Axworthy, British Ambassador to the Holy See, then presented the UK’s goals for COP26, which will be held in the Scottish city of Glasgow on 1-12 November, and its hopes for the “Faith and Science” runup event.
She said the British government hopes COP26 will bring all nations together to confront the issue of climate change, which disproportionately affects least-developed nations and indigenous peoples, making it a “moral issue”.
Theology of the environment
Ambassador Axworthy described the overriding aim for the climate change conference as getting governments back on track to limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
She said the UK has recognized that faith leaders played an important role in preparing the success of COP21, at which the Paris Agreement was agreed and signed.
Pope Francis had just released his environmental encyclical Laudato si’, she noted, adding that faith leaders have just as important a role to play in COP26.
With this in mind, the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See decided to host the “Faith and Science” initiative to combine the strengths of faith leaders.
Ahead of the 4 October event, six virtual meetings were held at which faith leaders presented their theology on environment, actions they have taken thus far to contribute to reducing emission, and what their hopes are for the future.
Ambassador Axworthy cited one faith leader as saying the role of religion is to provide “enlightened passion”, with scientists providing the data and faith leaders offering the inspiration for climate action.
Young people preparing the future
The Italian Ambassador to Holy See, Pietro Sebastiani, spoke about his government’s efforts to prepare for COP26.
He also recalled how climate change has contributed to worsening conflicts, including in Africa’s Sahel region.
Italy’s government will host the pre-COP event in Milan in the Fall, to offer government ministers the chance to discuss topics in an informal setting, ahead of the main COP26 event in Glasgow.
Another initiative in Milan on 28-30 September seeks to involve some 400 young people from around the world in preparing a better future for the planet.
Finally, Ambassador Sebastiani said the “Faith and Science” event will allow faith leaders to showcase how religion encourages the faithful to do their part in caring for our common home.