Humanity must build alliances supporting peace, creation, says Pope Francis

07 Dec 2023

By Contributor

By Carol Glatz

Pope Francis smiles after delivering his speech by video from the Vatican to religious leaders attending the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on 3 December, 2023. Pope Francis cancelled his trip to Dubai because of a bronchial infection. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media

The world needs people to build alliances that are not against others, but are in favor of everyone, Pope Francis told faith leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“It is important that religions, without falling into the trap of syncretism, set a good example by working together: not for their own interests or those of one party, but for the interests of our world. Among these, the most important nowadays are peace and the climate,” Pope Francis said in a video message.

“As religious representatives, let us set an example to show that change is possible and bear witness to respectful and sustainable lifestyles,” he said, speaking in Spanish at the Vatican.

The Holy Fathers message was broadcast on 3 December during the inauguration of the first Faith Pavilion at a UN climate conference. The pope was to have been present at the COP28 conference from 1 to 3 December, but cancelled his trip on 28 November due to severe bronchitis.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of state, poses for a group photo next to Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the President-designate of COP28, left, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, centre, and Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso, Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, along with other representatives at the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion during the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 3, 2023. Photo: CNS/courtesy of U.N. Climate Change COP28, Christopher Pike.

“I offer you cordial greetings, and I am very sorry that I cannot be with you,” he said in the video message.

He thanked the organisers for establishing a religious pavilion as part of a COP “because this testifies to the willingness to work together.”

“At the present time the world needs alliances that are not against someone, but in favour of everyone,” he said.

“With a loud voice, let us implore leaders of nations that our common home be preserved,” he said. “Let us safeguard creation and protect our common home; let us live in peace and promote peace!”

The Holy Father also had a longer speech prepared for the inauguration and that was read in Dubai by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and president of the Vatican’s delegation at the climate conference.

Pope Francis wrote in his talk, “the problem of climate change is also a religious problem: its roots lie in the creature’s presumption of self-sufficiency.”

“That insatiable desire for power wells up whenever we consider ourselves lords of the world, whenever we live as though God did not exist and, as a result, end up prey to passing things,” he wrote.

“Instead of mastering technology, we let technology master us,” the Holy Father wrote. “We become mere commodities, desensitized, incapable of sorrow and compassion, self-absorbed and, turning our backs on morality and prudence, we destroy the very sources of life.”

Religions are “voices of conscience for humanity,” he wrote, and remind people that “we are finite creatures” with a need for the infinite and the duty to care for creation.

“We need, urgently, to act for the sake of the environment. It is not enough merely to increase spending: we need to change our way of life and thus educate everyone to sober and fraternal lifestyles,” he wrote.

“A world poor in contemplation will be a world polluted in soul, a world that will continue to discard people and produce waste,” he wrote. “A world that lacks prayer will speak many words but, bereft of compassion and tears, will only live off a materialism made of money and weapons.”

Peace and the stewardship of creation are interdependent, the Holy Father wrote, and “peacekeeping is also a task for the religions.”

Pope Francis signs the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change in his Vatican residence on 3 December 2023. The Holy Father had been scheduled to sign the document at the Faith Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but was forced to cancel the trip because of a bronchial infection. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media.

“May our actions not contradict the words we speak; may we not merely speak about peace but take a stand against those who claim to be believers yet fuel hatred and do not oppose violence,” he added.

The Faith Pavilion was hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 presidency, the UN Environment Program and more than 50 faith organizations. It was hosting events that bring together representatives from religions, civil society, Indigenous peoples, scientists, young people and political leaders.

The inauguration event on 3 December opened with a video message from Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, who greeted Pope Francis and wished him “a speedy and thorough recovery, health and well-being.”

Both Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb were shown on video signing the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change for COP28 that had been drafted and signed by more than two dozen other religious representatives at a global faith leaders’ summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 6 to 7 November.

The statement called for “inclusive dialogue, during and beyond COPs, with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women’s organizations and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development,” and it “demands transformative action to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities.”

Despite his being in Rome, the Holy Father said was closely following the work being done at the COP28 in Dubai.

After praying the Angelus from the Vatican on 3 December, Pope Francis reiterated his appeal “for a response to climate change with concrete political changes” and asked leaders to leave behind “particularism and nationalism, mindsets of the past, and embrace a common vision, all making every effort now, without delay, for a necessary global conversion.”

From his @Pontifiex accounts, the Holy Father was tweeting daily calls for real progress to be made at COP28.

“Time is short. Now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose,” his 2 December tweet said.