Vatican joins interfaith declaration on fighting climate change

COP28 logo. / Credit: rafapress/Shutterstock

Vatican City, Nov 8, 2023 / 11:50 am (CNA).

The Holy See has signed an interfaith declaration on taking action to protect the environment during a religious summit held ahead of the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, signed the statement on behalf of Pope Francis during the Global Faith Leaders Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 6–7.

Twenty-eight leaders from more than 19 different religions, faith traditions, and denominations joined the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Action Towards COP28, which declares that “our faith instills in us a sacred duty to cherish not only our human family but also the fragile ecosystem that cradles us.”

“We, representatives of diverse faith and Indigenous traditions … convened in Abu Dhabi in the lead-up to COP28,” the statement says, “to express our shared concern for the escalating climate impacts that imperil our cherished planet, as well as our common commitment to jointly address this global crisis.”

“As we stand at the precipice of history, considering the gravity of the challenges we collectively face, we remain mindful of the legacy we will leave for generations to come,” the document says.

“We ardently implore all decision-makers assembled at COP28 to seize this decisive moment and to act with urgency, weaving a tapestry of shared action and profound responsibility,” it continues. “The urgency of the hour demands that we act swiftly, collaboratively, and resolutely to heal our wounded world and preserve the splendor of our common home.”

Among the calls to actions the statement makes, it asks heads of state, governments, and nonstate actors to “champion the development of a faith-based ecological narrative, continuous learning, and the integration of ecological teachings and values within educational, religious, and cultural institutions, nurturing a holistic understanding of our interconnectedness.”

It also calls for active participation in public discourse on environmental matters and to “lead the pursuit and reimagining of sustainable lower carbon lifestyles and social progress rooted in harmony with the earth and respect for its resources.”

The gathering of religious leaders was organized by the Muslim Council of Elders, the COP28 Presidency, and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

In a Nov. 7 interview with Vatican News in Abu Dhabi, Parolin said Pope Francis is “very interested” in the issue of climate change.

While climate change is a “secular issue,” religious leaders are implicated because there is also an “ethical and moral dimension,” the cardinal said.

“I think that in this issue,” he added, “the religious leader has a voice to say something and to add motivation to the present commitment of the world to tackle this issue.”

COP28, the United Nations annual climate change conference, will take place at the Expo City Dubai Nov. 30–Dec. 12. The Vatican announced last week that Pope Francis will travel to Dubai Dec. 1–3. He is expected to address the summit together with other religious leaders.

Known as the “Conference of the Parties” (COP), the meeting includes governments that have signed the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, and/or the Paris Agreement.

For the first time, the climate change conference will also include a faith pavilion, which will host more than 65 sessions with religious figures, scientists, and political leaders.

In addition to the Holy See, signatories of the interfaith climate action statement include Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, Chief Rabbi David Rosen, and representatives of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. 

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