The heads of two of the world’s religions have made what is considered to be one of the most strongly worded pleas by clerics to date to limit the impact of a warming planet – including a thinly veiled attack on the climate policies of the Trump administration.

In a joint message issued this month, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic church, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the honorary head of the Orthodox church, talk of the dangers of “our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources and our greed for limitless profits in markets”.

“The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe,” say the two religious leaders.

Climate challenge

The message describes a “morally decaying scenario” in which nature is not being respected as a shared gift but is regarded as a private possession.

“The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting,” it states. “The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people.”

Though the joint declaration drew few headlines, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew represent religions that together are estimated to have more than 1.5 billion followers, and their words and views have considerable impact, not only among religious groups but also in the higher echelons of governments around the world.

Bartholomew – often referred to as “The Green Patriarch” – has been involved in environmental issues for many years, and has led scientific and religious expeditions to the Arctic, the Amazon, the Mississippi and other parts of the globe to investigate the impacts of climate change.

Since being elected pope in early 2013, Francis has frequently spoken out on environmental matters and climate change. In a papal encyclical in 2015, the pope used what was considered to be exceptionally strong language to criticise those who were obstructing progress on meeting the challenges posed by a warming world.

In this message the two religious leaders make what they describe as an urgent appeal to those in authority to “respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation”.

They continue: “We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”

Considerable influence

Clerical commentators say the two religious leaders are using their considerable influence to highlight the blinkered view of those groups and governments that stand in the way of action on climate change.

The Reverend John Chryssavgis is Patriarch Bartholomew’s environmental adviser. He says: “I have to wonder whether the pope and the patriarch have in mind the shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness of the Trump administration that ill-advisedly withdrew from the Paris Agreement and irresponsibly disbanded a federal advisory committee on climate change.”


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