Francis urges personal conversion in implementing Sustainable Development Goals

Vatican City, Mar 8, 2019 / 10:25 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Friday that global development goals need to be supported by ethical objectives stemming from personal conversion and recognition of one’s failures.

“The economic and political objectives must be supported by ethical objectives, which presuppose a change of attitude, the Bible would say a change of heart,” the pope said March 8 at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“Already St. John Paul II spoke about the need to ‘encourage and sustain an ecological conversion,’” he said, referencing a 2001 catechesis of one of his predecessors. “Religions have a key role to play here.”

Francis emphasized that “for a correct transition to a sustainable future, it is necessary to recognize ‘one’s own mistakes, sins, vices or negligence,’ ‘to repent of heart, to change from within,’ to be reconciled with others, with creation and with the Creator,” as he wrote in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato si’.

“Indeed, we should all commit ourselves to promoting and implementing the development goals that are supported by our deepest religious and ethical values,” he urged. “Human development is not only an economic question or concerns only experts, but is above all a vocation, a call that requires a free and responsible response.”

The pope addressed Vatican officials, religious representatives, and members of international organizations participating in a March 7-9 conference on “Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Listening to the cry of the earth and the poor.”

The conference was hosted by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The SDGs are 17 global goals covering social and economic development issues, including poverty, hunger, education, energy, and the environment. The goals were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 as a part of what is called the “2030 Agenda” resolution.

In his speech to conference participants Friday, Pope Francis praised the SDGs and 2030 Agenda as “a great step forward for global dialogue, in the sign of a necessary ‘new universal solidarity.’”

“As my predecessor St. Paul VI highlighted, talking about human development means referring to all people – not just a few – and to the whole human person – not just to the material dimension,” he said.

Urging people to look for concrete answers and commitments, he noted he was pleased conference participants were seeking the input of religious persons in the discussion of the implementation of sustainable development objectives.

“In the case of religious people, we need to open the treasures of our best traditions with regard to a true and respectful dialogue on how to build the future of our planet,” he said.

The pope also underlined the importance of including in the discussion the voices of indigenous people, who he said, though a very small percentage of the world’s overall population, “take care of almost 22 percent of the earth’s surface” and “protect about 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity.”

“Their voice and their concerns should be at the center of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and at the center of the search for new roads for a sustainable future,” he stated, adding that he and other bishops will be discussing the topic at the Synod of Bishops on the pan-amazon region, being held in October.

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