Religious leaders, scientists to convene at Vatican ahead of climate summit

20200818  Press Conference at Holy See Press for the presentation of the Document entitled  On the way to the care of the common home   Five years after the Laudato si Mons Paul Richard Gallagher Daniel Ibez 12 Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states./ Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

The Vatican is partnering in an event that will bring together scientists and leaders of the world’s religions ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November.

“Faith and Science: Towards COP26” will take place Oct. 4 at the Vatican. The event has been organized by the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See.

At a press conference June 17, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, said it was “highly likely” that Pope Francis would participate in the October meeting given his commitment to the issue of climate change.

The conference will include more than 30 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 leading scientists, Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, said.

She explained that faith leaders already played a key role in building momentum for COP21 in 2015, and she and the Italian ambassador Pietro Sebastiani wondered if the same thing could be done for COP26, which takes place Nov. 1-12.

Gallagher described the faith and science meeting as a “no-brainer.”

“The sense of urgency is rising,” he said, “more and more crises affect us: economic, social, food crises. Everything is coming together in a sort of perfect storm.”

“This is a great opportunity to work together. And I think in the preparation of this conference, the work that has been done -- mainly in a series of webinars -- has shown the value of working together: that working together is positive, that it does produce results.”

Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said he thought that COP26 would be “a key moment in the history of humanity.”

“There will be difficult choices to be made and we hope, with God’s grace, that we will have the courage to make those choices and to move forward on these issues which will determine what life will be like on our planet in the coming decades and centuries,” he said.

In an interview with Vatican News last month, John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said that Pope Francis “intends to attend” COP26.

Kerry met with Pope Francis privately on May 15. In a video clip released by the Vatican, Kerry could be heard telling members of his staff, “first day he’ll be there with the heads of state.”

The Vatican has made no official announcement about the pope traveling to Glasgow and Gallagher declined to comment on the question Thursday.

Axworthy said that a full list of the religious and scientific leaders attending in October would be released at a later date, but they were chosen to represent all world religions and to come from around the globe.

“It was key to have representatives of most major faiths and denominations from every corner of the world,” she said.

The ambassador explained that in online meetings held in advance of COP26, the organizers asked the faith leaders to do three things: “set out their own theology on the environment; explain the action they had taken so far to protect the environment; and articulate what they wanted for the future, including what they wanted to say to political leaders at COP26.”

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“We asked the scientists to bring us up to date on the science,” she said.

In her presentation, Axworthy outlined some of the potential consequences to the environment should the global temperature rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“People in the least developed countries will be most affected by rising temperatures,” she said. “We have a moral obligation to protect the planet and those most affected by the climate crisis, in particular indigenous peoples, small-island developing states, and the least developed countries.”

The science and faith conference takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2013 encyclical Laudato si’ and from the Document on Human Fraternity, signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Gallagher said that “the magnitude of these challenges... mean that you’ve got to draw on all of your resources if we’re going to rise to these challenges; and that certainly is faith, is religion, is the spiritual dimension of humanity.”

“If we ignore that and think the only solution is good politics or good science or good something like that I think that we’re going to find that we’re not going to be successful,” he said.

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