Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican leaders call climate crisis a ‘devastating injustice’

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20, 2016 Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20, 2016./ Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images.

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I released an unprecedented joint message on Tuesday, calling the climate crisis a “devastating injustice.”

The three Christian leaders said that there would be “catastrophic consequences” for future generations unless the world took responsibility for environmental damage.

“The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” their statement, issued on Sept. 7, said.

“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.”

The pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed the joint text on Sept. 1. The message brought together the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, respectively the world’s largest, second-largest, and third-largest Christian communions.

“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 three men wrote.

The joint statement highlighted the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1-12.

“As world leaders prepare to meet in November at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and consider what the choices [sic] we must all make,” it said.

Pope Francis noted in an interview aired on Sept. 1 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.

In their joint message, the pope, the patriarch, and the archbishop said: “In our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures and the saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see in the moment.”

“The concept of stewardship -- of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment -- presents a vital starting point for social, economic, and environmental sustainability.”

They concluded: “All of us -- whoever and wherever we are -- can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation. Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment.”

“This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

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