Faith leaders call world to act quickly on Paris climate agreement

People call for action on climate change during a rally in June in Washington. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

People call for action on climate change during a rally in June in Washington. (CNS photo/Shawn Thew, EPA)

World religious leaders, including a Vatican official and the heads of regional bishops’ conferences, are calling on countries to promptly sign and ratify the Paris climate agreement.

In a statement sent to world leaders ahead of the Paris agreement signing ceremony at the United Nations April 22, Earth Day, some of the world’s most prominent voices in religion said caring for the earth is a shared responsibility.

The Paris agreement emerged from December’s U.N.-sponsored climate change conference — known as COP 21 — after four years of negotiations. Nearly 200 countries agreed to take steps in an effort to hold global warming to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.

Citing Pope Francis’ encyclical “‘Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” and other climate change statements from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other faiths, the leaders stressed that “humanity is a crucial turning point” and urged the world to act immediately on behalf of all people of the planet.

“We are united in our support for the full and ambitious implementation of the Paris agreement and of all other decisions adopted at COP 21,” the statement said in calling governments to accelerate climate action before 2020 and to increase commitment to the nationally determined contributions to slow climate change that each country submitted to the conference.

“Climate change presents our global family with the opportunity to embark on a path of spiritual renewal defined by deeper awareness and greater ecological action. Every act to protect and care for all beings connects us to one another, deepening the spiritual dimension of our lives,” the religious leaders said.

“We must reflect on the true nature of our interrelationship to the earth. It is not a resources for us to exploit at our will. It is a sacred inheritance and a precious home which we must protect, they said.”

Thirty-five Catholics were among the 264 religious leaders lending their names to the statement. Among them were Bishop Marcelo Sanchez, chancellor, pontifical academies of sciences and social sciences; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, India, president, Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences; Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, president, CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ council; Archbishop John Ribat, of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, president, Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania and Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manilla, Philippines, president, Caritas Internationalis; Father Joseph Komakoma, secretary general, Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; Bishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles, France, president, French bishops’ conference; Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, president, Austrian Catholic bishops’ conference; Good Samaritan Sister Elizabeth Delaney, general secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia; and Mercy Sister Patricia McDermott, president, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

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