The pope ended his written address by encouraging the visitors to redouble their efforts to protect the environment.
He said: "While the conditions of the planet can appear catastrophic and certain situations even seem irreversible, we Christians do not lose hope because we have our eyes turned to Jesus Christ. He is God, the Creator himself, who came to visit his creation and to dwell among us, to heal us, to restore the harmony that we have lost, harmony among brothers and harmony with nature."
Quoting Laudato si', he concluded: "He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward."
In off-the-cuff remarks to the French delegation, released later on Sept. 3 by the Holy See press office, the pope spoke of his own "ecological conversion."
He said: "In 2007 there was the Conference of the Latin American Bishops in Brazil, in Aparecida. I was in the group of editors of the final document, and proposals on the Amazon arrived. I said: 'But these Brazilians, why do they bother with this Amazon! What does the Amazon have to do with evangelization?' This was me in 2007. Then, in 2015 Laudato si' came out. I had a path of conversion, of understanding the ecological problem. I didn't understand anything before!"
Discussing the genesis of Laudato si', he recalled a conversation with the then French environment minister Ségolène Royale, who urged him to release the document before a 2015 conference that would negotiate the Paris Agreement on combating climate change.
He said that he contacted those who were drafting the encyclical.
"I called the team that was doing it -- so that you know that I didn't write this myself, it was a team of scientists, a team of theologians and all together we made this reflection -- I called this team and I said: 'This must come out before the meeting in Paris' -- 'But why?' -- 'To put pressure.'"
He continued: "When I began to think about this encyclical, I called the scientists -- a nice group -- and I told them: 'Tell me the things that are clear and that are proven and not hypotheses, the realities.' And they brought these things that you read there today. Then, I called a group of philosophers and theologians [and told them]: 'I would like to reflect on this. You work and dialogue with me.' And they did the first job, then I intervened."
"And, in the end, I did the final editing. This is the origin. But I want to underline this: from not understanding anything, to Aparecida, in 2007, to the encyclical. Of this I like to give testimony. We must work so that everyone has this path of ecological conversion."
This report has been updated to include the pope's off-the-cuff remarks to the French delegation
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