For the sake of the earth which God has given us…

For the sake of the earth which God has given us… Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Pope Francis attend the meeting, ‘Faith and Science: Towards COP26,’ with other religious leaders at the Vatican on October 4. Photo: CNS.
Faith communities have a vital role to play in addressing the root causes of the environmental crisis and we must raise our voices, writes Jane Mellett

During the Season of Creation this year the leaders of the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion issued a joint statement warning of the urgency of the environment crisis, its impact on poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby urged everyone to play their part in ‘choosing life’ for the future of the planet. They called on people to pray for world leaders ahead of the crucial UN Climate Conference (known as COP26) which is due to take place in Glasgow starting next week.

In their statement the heads of the three Christian traditions appealed to everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to “listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor”, to examine their behaviour and pledge meaningful sacrifices “for the sake of the earth which God has given us.’

Referring to COP26, they said “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.” They asked world leaders, with far-reaching responsibilities, to choose people-centred profits and lead the transition to just and sustainable economies.


The statements from the leaders comes weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most harrowing report to date, which was described by the UN Secretary General as a “code red for humanity”.

The IPCC report was clear that there is now no doubt that human activity is causing our planet to warm, with the impacts being felt across all regions and all systems. It also said it will get worse.

The changing climate is causing parts of world to become uninhabitable for human beings. We have seen this played out across the world during the summer months where devastating floods caused much destruction in Belgium and Germany, killing more than 200 people, leaving hundreds missing and thousands of homes destroyed in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region in decades.


In the USA record temperatures have literally burned entire towns to the ground, forcing people into emergency shelters. Many of the communities we work with overseas have been feeling the devastating effects of the climate crisis for decades, as it has threatened their food and water sources, their livelihoods and their homes. In East Africa, two million people are on the brink of devastating hunger due to drought and conflict exacerbated by global warming.

While the IPCC report was stark, it also offered some hope, saying if governments take immediate action now, we can steer onto a different path. It said, “Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.” (IPCC 2021). World leaders must come together and make decisions which will have repercussions for many generations to come. It is a critical moment for our common home.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on Care for Our Common Home, he asks us “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (LS, 160).

This is the same question being asked of world leaders by the youth climate movement today. Many faith leaders have spoken out on this issue, most recently the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Farrell, who published a pastoral letter The Cry of the Earth, The Cry of the Poor in September.

In this compelling document, the Archbishop notes: “The climate crisis is a societal issue. Addressing it – nationally and globally – requires a societal response. One aspect of this is the response of communities, and Church is profoundly about community” (p. 49).


Faith communities have a vital role to play in addressing the root causes of the environmental crisis. Pope Francis describes the roots of the ecological crisis as deeply spiritual, urging us to reconnect with the natural world, restoring our sense of awe and wonder for the Book of Creation.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us that we are protectors of this earth, not destroyers, called to contemplate the mystery of the universe, and to see that, “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, [God’s] boundless affection for us. Soil, mountains everything is, as it were, a caress of God” (LS 84).

Faith communities can come together to bear witness to solutions locally and create spaces where people can reflect on this issue and discern a way to walk more gently on this earth.

Ahead of COP26, what can people of faith do to affect change? The Vatican has endorsed a petition called ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ which calls for a joined-up, just response to the Covid-19, climate and biodiversity crises. The petition asks that world leaders listen to the science and agree on science-aligned global targets for climate and biodiversity action. It calls for an end to fossil fuels and the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.


People are urged to gather as many signatures as possible in their parishes and wider communities and to promote its message. There is also an opportunity to lift up the message and the power of Laudato Si’ at this critical moment. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many delegations from the global south will not be in attendance at COP26, therefore we must all play our part to raise the voices of the most vulnerable at this time.

Trócaire, the bishops’ conference and the Association of Missionaries and Religious in Ireland (AMRI) are supporting this petition and urging everyone to go to to sign the petition and get their family and friends to do the same. This is one simple action we can all take today which can make a real difference at the UN Climate Conference in November and for future generations.

“Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.” (LS, 217). Pope Francis reminds us that “Truly, much can be done!” (LS, 180).

Jane Mellett is Laudato Si’ Officer with Trócaire.