Pope Francis to young climate activists: ‘Technical and political solutions are not enough’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Pope Francis sends a video message to participants in Youth4Climate event in Milan, Italy, Sept. 29, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Sep 29, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis urged young climate activists on Wednesday to recognize that “technical and political solutions are not enough” to foster harmony between people and the environment.

In a video message to the Youth4Climate event in Milan, Italy, on Sept. 29, the pope highlighted the importance of education and individual responsibility.

He said: “Technical and political solutions are not enough if they are not supported by the responsibility of each member and by an educational process that favors a cultural model of development and sustainability centered on fraternity and on the alliance between human beings and the environment.”

“There must be harmony between people, men and women, and the environment. We are not enemies: we are not indifferent. We are part of this cosmic harmony.”

Around 400 young “climate champions” from the 197 member countries of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change are taking part in the Sept. 28-30 event.

On the opening day, 18-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an address sharply criticizing world leaders’ rhetoric on climate change.

“Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah,” she said on Tuesday.

“This is all we hear from our so-called leaders. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action. Our hopes and ambitions drown in their empty promises.”

The gathering is taking place ahead of the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1-12.

Pope Francis said earlier this month that he hoped to travel to Scotland to take part in the conference.

“It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there,” he said.

The pope issued an unprecedented joint message on the environment on Sept. 7, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the symbolic head of the global Anglican Communion, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians.

“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the leaders of world’s three largest Christian communions said.

In his video message, the pope praised young people for their “dreams and good projects,” as well as their concern for strengthening human relationships while safeguarding the environment.

He said: “It is a concern that is good for everyone. This vision is capable of challenging the adult world, for it reveals that you are prepared not only for action, but also for patient listening, constructive dialogue, and mutual understanding.”

“Therefore, I encourage you to combine your efforts through an extensive educational alliance to form decent, mature generations, capable of overcoming fragmentation and rebuilding the fabric of relationships so that we can achieve a more fraternal humanity.”

“It is said that you are the future, but in these matters, you are the present, you are those who are making the future today, in the present.”

The pope also sent a message on Wednesday to the fall session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation international organization founded in 1949 that is distinct from the European Union. The Assembly meets four times a year in Strasbourg, France.

The pope directed his message to participants in a high-level panel on “The environment and human rights: the right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment.”

Referring to efforts to protect the environment using human rights law, he said: “The Holy See is … convinced that every initiative of the Council of Europe should not be limited only to the geographical area of this continent, but, starting from our beloved Europe, should reach out to the whole world.”

“In this sense, the decision that the Council of Europe wants to take to create a new legal instrument to link environmental care to the respect of fundamental human rights is viewed with interest.”

“There is no more time to wait, we must act. Any instrument that respects human rights and the principles of democracy and the rule of law, fundamental values of the Council of Europe, can be useful to face this global challenge.”

The pope said that the ecological crisis should not only inspire dialogue at all levels, but also strengthen individual and collective responsibility.

“We should therefore also talk about the duties of every human being to live in a healthy, wholesome, and sustainable environment,” he said.

“Instead, when we speak only of rights, we think only of what is due to us. We must also think about the responsibility to future generations, and the world we want to leave to our children and young people.”

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  1. The Holy Father concludes by linking rights with responsibilities.

    One is reminded of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman who remarked that “conscience has rights BECAUSE it has duties, [and then] but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore the Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations” (from “A Letter to the Duke of Norfolk”).

    Other incisive PAIRINGS like the above reveal the coherence of the entire Catholic Social Teaching (CST):

    Centering above all on the transcendent (!) dignity of each human person, we then have: (1) the transcendent human person AND the family, always together, (2) wider solidarity AND concrete subsidiarity always together, (3) rights AND responsibilities always together, (4) informed conscience AND faithful citizenship always together, (5) the option for the poor AND the dignity of work always together, and (6) solidarity AND sustainable care for God’s creation always together.

    The entire “Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” (2004) in a nutshell! (294 pages with 1,232 footnotes).

  2. Pope Francis rightly criticized the aim to create a new legal instrument that would link environmental care to the respect of fundamental human rights. He said that “when we speak only of rights, we think only of what is due to us. We must also think about the responsibility to future generations, and the world we want to leave to our children and young people.” In other words, the Pope was saying that we should our Lives in accordance with our Lord’s call for us to love, to be the good stewards God wanted us to be.

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