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From afar, Pope Francis helps inaugurate first-ever Faith Pavilion at UN climate summit

The first-ever Faith Pavilion at a U.N. climate change conference was inaugurated Dec. 3 in Dubai, with video messages from the pope and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, who both called the world to work for peace and preserving a livable climate.

Pope Francis says he's doing better but again skips Sunday appearance at St. Peter's Square

For a second Sunday, an ailing Pope Francis skipped his popular window appearance to the public in St. Peter's Square, but in televised remarks said he's doing better even though his voice wouldn't let him read all his comments aloud.

Nuclear disarmament a 'critical pro-life issue,' warns Archbishop Wester

The threat from nuclear weapons is as great now as ever, and their destructive power is more immediate than climate change, said Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, at a Nov. 29 Mass in Manhattan that remembered Catholic activist Dorothy Day, a candidate for sainthood recognized by the church as a "servant of God."

Humanity must build alliances supporting peace, creation, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The world needs people to build alliances that are not against others, but are in favor of everyone, Pope Francis told faith leaders at the U.N. Climate Change Conference being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

"It is important that religions, without falling into the trap of syncretism, set a good example by working together: not for their own interests or those of one party, but for the interests of our world. Among these, the most important nowadays are peace and the climate," he said in a video message.

"As religious representatives, let us set an example to show that change is possible and bear witness to respectful and sustainable lifestyles," he said, speaking in Spanish at the Vatican.

The pope's message was broadcast Dec. 3 during the inauguration of the first Faith Pavilion at a U.N. climate conference. The pope was to have been present at the COP28 conference Dec. 1-3, but canceled his trip Nov. 28 due to severe bronchitis.

"I offer you cordial greetings, and I am very sorry that I cannot be with you," he said in the video message. 

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Pope Francis smiles after delivering his speech by video from the Vatican to religious leaders attending the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

He thanked the organizers for establishing a religious pavilion as part of a COP "because this testifies to the willingness to work together."

"At the present time the world needs alliances that are not against someone, but in favor of everyone," he said.

"With a loud voice, let us implore leaders of nations that our common home be preserved," he said. "Let us safeguard creation and protect our common home; let us live in peace and promote peace!" 

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is seen in this screen grab reading Pope Francis' speech for the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion at COP28, the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Dec. 3, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/screen grab, YouTube, COP28 UAE Official)

The pope also had a longer speech prepared for the inauguration and that was read in Dubai by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and president of the Vatican's delegation at the climate conference.

The pope wrote in his talk, "the problem of climate change is also a religious problem: its roots lie in the creature's presumption of self-sufficiency."

"That insatiable desire for power wells up whenever we consider ourselves lords of the world, whenever we live as though God did not exist and, as a result, end up prey to passing things," he wrote.

"Instead of mastering technology, we let technology master us," the pope wrote. "We become mere commodities, desensitized, incapable of sorrow and compassion, self-absorbed and, turning our backs on morality and prudence, we destroy the very sources of life."

Religions are "voices of conscience for humanity," he wrote, and remind people that "we are finite creatures" with a need for the infinite and the duty to care for creation.

"We need, urgently, to act for the sake of the environment. It is not enough merely to increase spending: we need to change our way of life and thus educate everyone to sober and fraternal lifestyles," he wrote.

"A world poor in contemplation will be a world polluted in soul, a world that will continue to discard people and produce waste," he wrote. "A world that lacks prayer will speak many words but, bereft of compassion and tears, will only live off a materialism made of money and weapons."

Peace and the stewardship of creation are interdependent, the pope wrote, and "peacekeeping is also a task for the religions."

"May our actions not contradict the words we speak; may we not merely speak about peace but take a stand against those who claim to be believers yet fuel hatred and do not oppose violence," he added. 

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, poses for a group photo next to Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, the president-designate of COP28, left, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, center, and Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, along with other representatives at the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion during the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 3, 2023. (CNS photo/courtesy of U.N. Climate Change COP28, Christopher Pike)

The Faith Pavilion was hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders in collaboration with the COP28 presidency, the U.N. Environment Program and more than 50 faith organizations. It was hosting events that bring together representatives from religions, civil society, Indigenous peoples, scientists, young people and political leaders.

The inauguration event Dec. 3 opened with a video message from Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, who greeted Pope Francis and wished him "a speedy and thorough recovery, health and well-being."

Both Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb were shown on video signing the Interfaith Statement on Climate Change for COP28 that had been drafted and signed by more than two dozen other religious representatives at a global faith leaders' summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 6-7.

The statement called for "inclusive dialogue, during and beyond COPs, with faith leaders, vulnerable groups, youth, women's organizations and the scientific community to forge alliances that strengthen sustainable development," and it "demands transformative action to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach and serve affected and vulnerable communities."

Despite his being in Rome, the pope said was closely following the work being done at the COP28 in Dubai.

After praying the Angelus from the Vatican Dec. 3, the pope reiterated his appeal "for a response to climate change with concrete political changes" and asked leaders to leave behind "particularism and nationalism, mindsets of the past, and embrace a common vision, all making every effort now, without delay, for a necessary global conversion."

From his @Pontifiex accounts, the pope was tweeting daily calls for real progress to be made at COP28.

"Time is short. Now more than ever, the future of us all depends on the present that we now choose," his Dec. 2 tweet said.

Praying with dying migrants a key duty for El Paso's Bishop Seitz

El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz, who leads the U.S. bishops' work on migration, offers dying migrants final prayers so he can assure the migrants' families that "they didn't die alone."  

Essay raises important questions about Pope Francis' synodal process

Notre Dame theologian John Cavadini's article on the Synod of Bishops' synthesis document raises important questions about important issues and does so without demonizing anyone or rejecting the synodal process itself.

Religiosos latinoamericanos instan a renovar las estructuras de la Iglesia

Al dar la bienvenida en Bogotá, Colombia, a los participantes al IV Congreso Latinoamericano y Caribeño de Vida Religiosa de la CLAR, la hermana Liliana Franco Echeverri, su presidenta, expresó que sus "estructuras están urgidas de renovación", porque "hay estructuras que asfixian y modos de proceder que niegan lo que es humano".

Pope Francis urges 'clear,' 'tangible,' 'decisive' progress at UN climate summit in Dubai

Delivering a message Pope Francis had hoped to offer in person, Cardinal Pietro Parolin urged the United Nations climate summit in Dubai to achieve a "breakthrough" and become a turning point for the world. 

Pope calls world leaders to end divisions to fight climate change

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The future of humanity depends on what people choose now, Pope Francis said in his message to global leaders at the World Climate Action Summit of the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

"Are we working for a culture of life or a culture of death?" he asked in his message. "To all of you I make this heartfelt appeal: Let us choose life! Let us choose the future!"

"The purpose of power is to serve. It is useless to cling to an authority that will one day be remembered for its inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so. History will be grateful to you," the pope wrote.

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Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, is seen in this screen grab reading Pope Francis' speech to COP28, the U.N. Climate Change Conference, Dec. 2, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/screen grab, YouTube, COP28 UAE Official)

Excerpts from Pope Francis' full written message were read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, Dec. 2 during the high-level segment with heads of state and government at the climate conference, COP28, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 30-Dec. 12.

Pope Francis was to have been the first pope to attend the U.N. climate conference Dec. 1-3, but canceled his trip Nov. 28 after coming down with a serious bronchial infection.

The Vatican published the pope's full speech Dec. 2, although Cardinal Parolin read only excerpts at the summit to respect the three-minute limit on national statements. The text was submitted in full to the conference.

"Sadly, I am unable to be present with you, as I had greatly desired," the pope's text said.

The destruction of the environment is "a sin" that not only "greatly endangers all human beings, especially the most vulnerable," he wrote, but it also "threatens to unleash a conflict between generations."

"The drive to produce and possess has become an obsession, resulting in an inordinate greed that has made the environment the object of unbridled exploitation," the pope wrote. People must recognize their limits, with humility and courage, and seek authentic fulfillment. 

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An indigenous community member attends the formal opening of the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/ courtesy of UN Climate Change COP28, Christopher Pike)

"What stands in the way of this? The divisions that presently exist among us," he wrote.

The world "should not be un-connected by those who govern it, with international negotiations that 'cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good,'" he wrote, quoting from his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', On Care for Our Common Home."

The poor and high birth rates are not to blame for today's climate crisis, he wrote. "Almost half of our world that is more needy is responsible for scarcely 10% of toxic emissions, while the gap between the opulent few and the masses of the poor has never been so abysmal. The poor are the real victims of what is happening."

As for population growth, births are a resource, he wrote, "whereas certain ideological and utilitarian models now being imposed with a velvet glove on families and peoples constitute real forms of colonization."

"The development of many countries, already burdened by grave economic debt, should not be penalized," it said. "It would only be fair to find suitable means of remitting the financial debts that burden different peoples, not least in light of the ecological debt that they are owed" by the few nations responsible for the bulk of emissions.

"We have a grave responsibility," he wrote, which is to ensure the earth, the poor and the young not be denied a future.

The solution requires coming together as brothers and sisters living in a common home, rebuilding trust and pursuing multilateralism, he added. 

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A view of Al Wasl Dome and an array of flags can be seen during the U.N. Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Nov. 30, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (CNS photo/courtesy of UN Climate Change COP28, Neville Hopwood)

The care for creation and world peace are closely linked, the pope wrote.

"How much energy is humanity wasting on the numerous wars" being waged, he wrote, and "how many resources are being squandered on weaponry that destroys lives and devastates our common home!"

The pope again urged governments to divert money away from arms and other military expenditures toward a global fund to end hunger, to promote sustainable development of poorer countries and to combat climate change.

"Climate change signals the need for political change" away from narrow self-interest and nationalism, he wrote.

There must be "a breakthrough that is not a partial change of course, but rather a new way of making progress together," he wrote. There must be "a decisive acceleration of ecological transition" regarding energy efficiency, renewable sources, the elimination of fossil fuels and "education in lifestyles that are less dependent on the latter."

He promised the "commitment and support of the Catholic Church, which is deeply engaged in the work of education and of encouraging participation by all, as well as in promoting sound lifestyles."

"Let us leave behind our divisions and unite our forces," Pope Francis wrote. "And with God's help, let us emerge from the dark night of wars and environmental devastation in order to turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day."

The sacramentality of silliness

Society's "clowns" force us to surrender what we think we know in favor of a greater joy, writes Jim McDermott. They teach us a sort of mercy toward a world not living up to our expectations.