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POPE: Destruction of environment is an offence against God

Pope Francis

Dubai, UAE | THE INDEPENDENT | Pope Francis has told the UN Climate Change Conference that the destruction of the environment is an offense against God.

In a message delivered on his behalf by Secretary of State Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Pope told world leaders gathered in the United Arab Emirates that the destruction of the environment is a “sin that is not only personal but also structural, one that greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable in our midst and threatens to unleash a conflict between generations”

Pope Francis had personally planned to attend COP28 but he was reportedly advised not to because of an infection in his lungs. In a message translated into several languages including Italian, English, Arabic, and Spanish he regretted that he was not attending in person.

“I am with you because climate change is “a global social issue and one intimately related to the dignity of human life” (Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum, 3). I am with you to raise the question which we must answer now: Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?”

The Pope went on to deliver his heartfelt appeal.

“Let us choose life! Let us choose the future! May we be attentive to the cry of the earth, may we hear the plea of the poor, may we be sensitive to the hopes of the young and the dreams of children! We have a grave responsibility.”

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns mainly caused by human actions especially burning fossil fuels like coal, and oil and gas.

The World Meteorological report this week said we are suffering from more extreme heat from both the land and ocean. And that drought afflicted millions in 2023 and extreme rainfall and flooding caused devastation to millions.

The Pope again delivered a very targeted message saying it has now become clear that the climate change presently taking place stems from the overheating of the planet, caused chiefly by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activity, which in recent decades has proved unsustainable for the ecosystem.

“The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation. The climate, run amok, is crying out to us to halt this illusion of omnipotence. Let us once more recognize our limits, with humility and courage, as the sole path to a life of authentic fulfillment,” he added.

What stands in the way of this?

He answered this question by blaming it on the divisions that presently exist among us. Yet a world completely connected, like ours today, should not be un-connected by those who govern it, with international negotiations that “cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good”

Self-interest vs Public Good

The Pope said we find ourselves facing firm and even inflexible positions calculated to protect income and business interests, at times justifying this on the basis of what was done in the past, and periodically shifting the responsibility to others.

“Yet the task to which we are called today is not about yesterday, but about tomorrow: a tomorrow that, whether we like it or not, will belong to everyone or else to no one,”

Births Not a Problem

Pope Francis dismissed attempts to shift the blame of climate change onto the poor and high birth rates. “These are falsities that must be firmly dispelled. It is not the fault of the poor, since the almost half of our world that is more needy is responsible for scarcely 10% of toxic emissions, while the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal.”

He said the poor are the real victims of what is happening. “We need to think only of the plight of indigenous peoples, deforestation, the tragedies of hunger, water and food insecurity, and forced migration. Births are not a problem, but a resource: they are not opposed to life, but for life, whereas certain ideological and utilitarian models now being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples constitute real forms of colonization” he advised.

Don’t Punish the Poor

The development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt, should not be penalized; instead, we should consider the footprint of a few nations responsible for a deeply troubling “ecological debt” towards many others.

The Pontiff also said the development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt, should not be penalized; instead, we should consider the footprint of a few nations responsible for a deeply troubling “ecological debt” towards many others.

“It would only be fair to find suitable means of remitting the financial debts that burden different peoples, not least in light of the ecological debt that they are owed.”

The Holy Father went on to say “Please” let us move forward and not turn back. He said it is well-known that various agreements and commitments “have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance

“You are responsible for crafting policies that can provide concrete and cohesive responses, and in this way demonstrate the nobility of your role and the dignity of the service that you carry out” History will be grateful to you.

He suggested that good politics would be the ultimate remedy in societies that are sadly divided into “fan bases”, between prophets of doom and indifferent bystanders, radical environmentalists and climate change deniers…” “It is useless to join the fray; in this case, as in the case of peace, it does not help to remedy the situation,” he said.

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