Pope Francis and UN Secretary General record video urging religious freedom, climate protection

Pope Francis and Guterres Vatican Pool Pope Francis and UN Secretary General António Guterres in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Dec. 20, 2019. | credit: EWTN-CNA/Evandro Inetti/Vatican Pool

Pope Francis and the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres recorded a video message together at the Vatican Friday in which the two leaders urge the importance of religious freedom, human dignity, and environmental protection.

"We must not remain indifferent to the human dignity trampled on and exploited, to attacks against human life, whether it is yet to be born or that of every person in need of care," Pope Francis said in the video message recorded with the the UN Secretary General at the Vatican Apostolic Palace Dec. 20.

"We cannot, we must not turn away when the believers of various faiths are persecuted, in different parts of the world. The use of religion to incite hatred … cries out for God's justice," the pope said.

The UN Secretary General added: "Tragically we see Jews being murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayers, their churches torched. We need to do more to promote mutual understanding and tackle rising hatred."

"Our meeting is especially meaningful during this Christmas season. This is a time of peace and goodwill and I am sad to witness Christian communities – including some of the world's oldest - unable to celebrate Christmas in safety," Guterres said.

Antonio Guterres, former prime minister of Portugal, has served as the UN Secretary General since 2017. He first met Pope Francis at the Vatican as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2013, and again as secretary general during the pope's 2015 visit to UN headquarters in Geneva.

"You are a messenger for hope and humanity – for reducing human suffering and promoting human dignity," the UN Secretary General told the pope.

He thanked Pope Francis for being a "clear moral voice" and for promoting interfaith relations, particularly through the Abu Dhabi declaration on human fraternity with the Grand Imam of Al- Azhar.

"This declaration is extremely important when we see such dramatic attacks on religious freedom and the lives of believers," he said. "The United Nations has also launched a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites and a strategy to combat hate speech."

In August, the UN General Assembly inaugurated the first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief to be marked each year on Aug. 22.

UN Secretary General also thanked Pope Francis for highlighting the issue of climate change in his encyclical Laudato Si.

"To promote love of people and care for our planet. To uphold our common humanity and protect our common home. Our world needs that more than ever. Coming to Rome from the COP25 in Madrid, I call on all countries around the globe to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050, in line with what the scientific community tells us is necessary to rescue the planet," Guterres said.

Pope Francis said that the need to reduce polluting emissions is  "urgent and necessary" for an integral ecology. "​Let's do something before it's too late," he said.

In a 40-minute private meeting at the Vatican, the two leaders discussed "the crisis of multilateralism" in addressing global issues such as migration, human trafficking, climate change, and disarmament, according to the Holy See Press Office.

They also focused on the implementation of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and current conflict situations and humanitarian emergencies.

Following the meeting, the UN Secretary General also met with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with States Richard Gallagher.

"Confidence in dialogue between people and between nations, in multilateralism, in the role of international organizations, in diplomacy as a tool for understanding and understanding, is indispensable for building a peaceful world," the pope said in the video message.

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"Christmas, in its genuine simplicity, reminds us that what really matters in life is love," he said. "These are days when our eyes are turned to the heavens to entrust to God the people and situations that we most cherish."

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