Pope Francis called on Thursday for concerted action against environmental degradation and climate change, renewing his fierce attack on consumerism and financial greed, which, he said, were threatening the planet.
A year after publishing the first ever papal document dedicated to the environment, the pope returned to the subject calling on Christians to make the defence of nature a core part of their faith.
“God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of debris, desolation and filth,” Francis said in a document released to coincide with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
Born in Argentina, Francis is the first pope from a developing nation and has placed environmental causes at the heart of his papacy, denouncing what he sees as a “throwaway” consumer culture and rampant, market-driven economies.
“Economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains,” Francis said, suggesting more ambitious action might be needed to curb climate change.
World leaders agreed at a United Nations summit in Paris last December to commit to new policies to limit greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to stabilise rising temperatures.
Francis welcomed the accord, but said world temperatures looked liked setting new records this year and urged voters everywhere to make sure their governments did not backtrack.
“It is up to citizens to insist that this happen, and indeed to advocate for even more ambitious goals,” he said.
He urged the world’s one billion Roman Catholic to embrace ecology, saying defence of the environment should be added to the so-called acts of mercy, which provide believers with guiding principles and duties that they are meant to follow.
These centuries-old practices include taking care of the hungry and sick, burying the dead and teaching the ignorant.
“May the works of mercy also include care for our common home,” Francis said, adding that simple, daily gestures which broke with “the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” would make a difference.
Even recycling rubbish, switching off lights and using a car-pool or public transport would help, he said. “We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world.”