VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis and dozens of religious leaders on Monday signed a joint appeal to governments to commit to ambitious goals at the next United Nations climate conference, while pledging to do their part to get their followers to adopt a more sustainable behavior.
“We inherited a garden; we must not leave a desert for our children,” said the appeal, which was signed in a formal ceremony at the Apostolic Palace before being handed over to the conference president COP26, Alok Sharma.
For religious leaders, caring for the environment is a moral imperative in order to preserve God’s creation for future generations and to support communities most vulnerable to climate change.
This is an argument that Francis has advanced on several occasions and in a very complete way in a 2015 encyclical, “Loué sois-tu”.
“Faith and Science: An Appeal for COP26, is the latest move to build momentum and outrage ahead of the October 31-November 12 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which experts say is a decisive chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It follows on from last week’s Milan Youth Summit and an earlier call from three Christian leaders: Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
They were joined on Monday by leaders from other major religious groups representing Sunni and Shia Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, Sikhism and more.
The Dalai Lama was clearly absent.
The Vatican has excluded the Tibetan spiritual leader from interfaith events for years in order not to upset China, and a call seeking to be heard by a big polluter like Beijing is no exception.
The Glasgow summit aims to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius with the aim of keeping it 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The event is also focused on mobilizing funding and protecting vulnerable communities and natural habitats.
Pope Francis’ presence is widely expected, although the Vatican has yet to confirm his presence.
The Vatican event was co-hosted by the Holy See and the two countries leading the Glasgow summit: Great Britain and Italy, which currently lead the Group of 20.
François arrived in the Hall of Blessings with Barthélémy by his side, then greeted each of the delegates while a string quartet played Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.
Usually Francis goes maskless inside the Vatican, but he donned a face mask on Monday, as did the other delegates.