April 28 Vatican Summit: Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity

On April 28, the Vatican is hosting a 1-day summit, Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.

It has these goals:

  • Raise awareness and build consensus that the values of sustainable development cohere with values of the leading religious traditions, with a special focus on the most vulnerable;
  • Elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment in advance of the papal encyclical;
  • Help build a global movement across all religions for sustainable development and climate change.

"The desired outcome is a joint statement on the moral and religious imperative of sustainable development, highlighting the intrinsic connection between respect for the environment and respect for people – especially the poor, the excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children, and future generations," it says on the website.

Participants include representatives from the world’s major religions, climate scientists and influential environmentalists, such as Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The gathering is intended to build momentum for Pope Francis’s papal encyclical on climate change, which will be released this summer, followed by speeches in September at the UN and to a joint session of Congress on climate change.

Of course, rightwing non-think tank, Heartland Institute issued a press release that says it is "sending a team of climate scientists to Rome to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis! I’m sure the Pope will appreciate the education.

Heartland proudly declares it is "the world’s leading think tank promoting scientific skepticism about man-caused global warming."

Pope Francis

Last year, the Vatican convened a 5-day summit to help make the goals of the Rio+20 Summit a reality. It ended with a strong statement from participants, which included scientists and economists. 

Here is an excerpt:

"Humanity has entered a new era," moving from the Age of Industrialization marked by remarkable technological change to the Age of the Anthropocene, where humans dominate the planet.

While technological advances from electricity to aviation to the digital revolution have reshaped the world economy into one that’s increasingly connected and urban, it is also more and more unequal.  

"Human action which is not respectful of nature becomes a boomerang that creates inequality and extends what Pope Francis calls "the globalization of indifference" and the "economy of exclusion." 

"Market forces alone, bereft of ethics and collective action, cannot solve the intertwined crises of poverty, exclusion, and the environment."

While conservative Catholics are turned off by the Pope’s focus on protecting nature and addressing climate change, others in the faith recently formed the Global Catholic Climate Movement to advocate for an international climate treaty, and "to encourage the conversion of hardened hearts."

The Pope’s encyclical – one of the most authoritative documents a pope can issue – will call for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to address climate change as "essential to the faith."

Read our article, Global Catholic Climate Movement Forms, Anticipating Pope’s Formal Letter on Climate.

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