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Pope Francis, environmental leaders forge vision for global action


A gust of wind blows Pope Francis’ cape as he delivers his speech next to Ecumenic Patriarch of the Orthodox Church Bartolomeo I (L) and Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in front of the Pontifical Basilica of St Nicholas in Bari, in the Apulia region in southern Italy, on July 7, 2018.<br />Pope Francis on July 7 voiced concern that Christians will disappear from the Middle East amid “murderous indifference” as war rages on. He was addressing the leaders of almost all the Middle Eastern churches gathered in the Italian port city of Bari to pray for peace in the region. / AFP PHOTO / Alberto PIZZOLI

Environmental leaders, activists and advocates gathered here today with Pope Francis to kick off a two-day Vatican-organized conference with a sense of urgency and unity.

Together they hope to emerge with a momentum for greater action and a shared vision for protecting our planet.

Inspired by the third anniversary of the Pope’s seminal encyclical on the issue – titled Laudato si’–  political and religious leaders, scientists, economists and heads of civil society organizations came together to discuss how to awaken people to the gravity of the situation and inspire a “massive movement” of cooperative action and moral responsibility to our planet.

UN Environment’s Executive Director, Erik Solheim will address the convocation on the second day of these meetings titled ‘Acting Together to Save our Common Home’.

“The challenges we face around climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation are daunting.

The science – as so ably outlined in Laudato si’ – is unambiguous,” Erik Solheim wrote in his remarks for the conference.

“We are reaching, surpassing and ignoring global environmental tipping points that are causing enormous problems for humanity and hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest.”

Having drawn inspiration from the call for unity and action in the encyclical, UN Environment introduced their Interfaith Rainforest Initiative at the conference.

The new international alliance is a platform for religious leaders and faith-based communities to work hand-in-hand with indigenous peoples, governments, civil society and businesses on actions that protect rainforests.

“This is just one example of how new kinds of collaboration across sectors can bring forth real solutions,” said Solheim.

In Laudato si’, Pope Francis, who has emerged as an avid advocate for the environment since his appointment, condemned the collective negligence on behalf of the planet and called for strong and immediate action on climate change.

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