As Europe faces record high temperatures and summer wildfires, Pope Francis has pointed out that the poor suffer the most from heat waves, drought, and other environmental extremes.
In a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the pope said that it is “the poorest among us who are crying out.”
“Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes, and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent,” Pope Francis said in the message published on July 21.
“Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems. … The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars,” he said.
Pope Francis signed the message urging care for creation on July 16, one day after new temperature records were set in Spain and Portugal. There were 1,063 heat-related deaths in Portugal between July 7 and July 18, according to the country’s director-general of health.
Since then, the heat wave has spread to France and the U.K., which broke its national record for the highest temperature ever recorded on July 19.
In his message, Pope Francis explained that he authorized the Holy See on behalf of the Vatican City State to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement “in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.”
He said that achieving the demanding goals of the Paris agreement of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C and reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero requires cooperation between all nations.
“This means ‘converting’ models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles, in a way more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all peoples, present and future, a development grounded in responsibility, prudence/precaution, solidarity, concern for the poor and for future generations,” the pope added.
The pope called for economically richer countries, “who have polluted most in the last two centuries,” to provide financial and technical support for economically poorer nations that are “already experiencing the most of the burden of climate change.”
Pope Francis established Sept. 1 as the annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation following the publication of the encyclical Laudato si' in 2015. The pope has also recommended that the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 -- the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi -- be celebrated as a "Season of Creation."
The theme of this year’s Season of Creation will be “listen to the voice of creation.” The pope expressed hope that the season will be “a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.”
Pope Francis said: “Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our ‘ecological conversion,’ a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the ‘ecological catastrophe’ predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970.”
“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.”
By Courtney Mares
Catholic News Agency