Pope Francis, on his third day in Ecuador, spoke to his concerns on the environment, in particular on the fate of Equatorial Amazon, to an audience that included people indigenous to that region. In Religion News:
The pope has said he wanted the encyclical to influence a United Nations climate change summit in Paris in December and has now effectively taken his campaign to convince governments on the road. In September he takes his message to the United States and the United Nations.
“One thing is certain: we can no longer turn our backs on reality, on our brothers and sisters, on Mother Earth,” he said in a first speech at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.
While he did not specifically mention climate change or its causes, he quoted often from the encyclical, which said there was a “very solid scientific consensus” on global warming and its human causes.
He appeared to be making a clear reference to climate change doubters when he said: “It is wrong to turn aside from what is happening all around us, as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our lives.”
The Pope was specific in his call to action:
In the encyclical Francis demanded swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, called for policies to “drastically” reduce polluting gases and gradually cut dependence on fossil fuels.
“We are also invited to care for it (the planet), to protect it, to be its guardians. Nowadays we are increasingly aware of how important this is. It is no longer a mere recommendation, but rather a requirement …”
The Pope’s words give ammunition to a debate that is political as well as scientific. From Reuters:
“This century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems,” warned the Pope, who arrives in the capital Quito on Sunday on the first stop of a tour also including Bolivia and Paraguay.
Ecuador’s leftist leader, Rafael Correa, who won election in 2006 in part on a promise to preserve the country’s unique biodiversity, is under fire from environmentalists who say he gives a greater priority to business.
Though activists are not scheduled to meet him, they hope the Pope’s mere presence, and recent international public attention over his encyclical, will strengthen their causes: from halting oil exploration in the Yasuni jungle to blocking a new law they believe will overcommercialize the Galapagos.
Activists are also reaching out to the Pope, according to the New York Times:
Last weekend, activists also published an online open letter to the pope, seeking his direct intervention in protecting the jungle homeland of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Franco Vitera, one of the activists, planned to present the letter to the pope on Tuesday.
“We ask you to intercede and call upon the Ecuadorean government to not expand the oil frontier and mega-mining in indigenous territories, especially in Yasuní,” the letter concluded. “We ask you to call upon them to respect the constitution and international treaties and agreements on the environment and human rights.”
Holy Mass celebrated during the Pope’s visit:
Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett
Photo credit: “Canonization 2014- The Canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II (14036966125)” by Jeffrey Bruno from New York City, United States… Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons