Pope FrancisOn Wednesday, Pope Francis asked his fellow Catholics to acknowledge the truth of climate change and to protect the planet. “Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us!”

The Pope delivered this short sermon in Rome following a five day environmental summit hosted by the Vatican. The summit, entitled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature, Our Responsibility,” brought together several authorities – including microbiologists, legal scholars, economists, philosophers and astronomers – to discuss how climate change will affect the world in the coming years.

The summit concluded by offering this joint statement:

“Human action which is not respectful of nature becomes a boomerang for human beings that creates inequality and extends what Pope Francis has termed ‘the globalization of indifference’ and the ‘economy of exclusion’ (Evangelii Gaudium), which themselves endanger solidarity with present and future generations.”

Pope Francis has become revered for his outspoken condemnation of poverty and inequality across the globe, and his environmentalism is very much an outgrowth of that social work. In Wednesday’s speech, not only did the Pope equate willful destruction of the environment to sin, he emphasized that the Earth is a universal gift:

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.”

This is not the first time the Pope has advocated for climate awareness. In his first social encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” Francis wrote that a “covenant” exists between humans and the environment. Noting it was the responsibility of all nations – particularly the wealthiest ones – to protect the planet, he admonished that it should “not be bequeathed to future generations depleted of its resources.”

The full transcript of Wednesday’s speech can be read here.

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