Pope Francis stands in an aisle with photographers snapping pictures.
Pope Francis arrives to meet members of civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis: We can no longer turn our backs on Mother Earth

Pope Francis stands in an aisle with photographers snapping pictures.

Pope Francis arrives to meet members of civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015. Pope Francis on Tuesday said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

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QUITO (Reuters) Pope Francis on Tuesday (July 7) said protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty and called for a new "social justice" where access to the earth's resources would be based on equality instead of economic interests.

In back-to-back speeches on the third day of his trip to Ecuador, the pope made his first full-court press on environmental issues since the publication last month of his landmark ecology encyclical "Laudato Si.".

Speaking before a group that included indigenous people of the Equatorial Amazon, he also renewed his call for special protection for the area because of its vital importance to the planet's ecosystem.

The pope has said he wanted the encyclical to influence a United Nations climate change summit in Paris in December and has now effectively taken his campaign to convince governments on the road. In September he takes his message to the United States and the United Nations.

"One thing is certain: we can no longer turn our backs on reality, on our brothers and sisters, on Mother Earth," he said in a first speech at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.

While he did not specifically mention climate change or its causes, he quoted often from the encyclical, which said there was a "very solid scientific consensus" on global warming and its human causes.

He appeared to be making a clear reference to climate change doubters when he said: "It is wrong to turn aside from what is happening all around us, as if certain situations did not exist or have nothing to do with our lives."

In the encyclical Francis demanded swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin, called for policies to "drastically" reduce polluting gases and gradually cut dependence on fossil fuels.

"We are also invited to care for it (the planet), to protect it, to be its guardians. Nowadays we are increasingly aware of how important this is. It is no longer a mere recommendation, but rather a requirement ..."

His choice of Ecuador to make his first post-encyclical speeches on the environment was not casual.

Ecuador is heavily reliant on oil and mining while boasting some of the world's greatest biodiversity including the Galapagos Islands, on which Charles Darwin formulated his ideas on evolution.

The leftist government of President Rafael Correa, which introduced austerity measures after a major drop in oil prices, is walking a tightrope between business and protecting the environment.

'Social mortgage'

In both speeches the first pope from Latin America, who has made defense of the poor a key plank of his papacy, also touched on the politically delicate issue of whether nature could be considered private property.

"The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage," the Argentine pontiff told a group of civic leaders in Quito's St. Francis Church, the oldest religious building in Latin America.

"In this way we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, towards social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life," he said in the church, whose construction began in 1536.

"The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits. As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole and towards future generations," he said.

His words in Ecuador were a foretaste of his September trip to the United States, where most of the criticism of the encyclical has come. Conservatives, including several Republicans seeking their party's nomination to run for president in 2016, have said the pope should not meddle in
scientific affairs.

But he has won wide backing from advocates of environmental protection, including President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

At the second meeting on Tuesday, representatives of two Amazon indigenous people, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane, were due to give him a letter saying they were living "in the shadow of extermination".

In that speech, the pope quoted from his encyclical, saying the Amazon "requires greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem  it possesses an enormously complex biodiversity which is almost impossible to appreciate fully."

Francis started his last full day in Ecuador by saying an open-air Mass for nearly a million people on the grounds of a former airport in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito. He visits Bolivia on Wednesday and the last leg of the trip is Paraguay.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella, Girish Gupta and Alexandra Valencia.)


  1. “We can no longer turn our backs on MOTHER earth”

    I’m glad the Pope can publicly acknowledge our true mother instead of the silly “Mary” he crows about all the time.

  2. Of course we should not turn our backs on earth, since it is man’s forever home (Eccl. 4:1; Psalm 104:5; 115:16).

    Unfortunately, man has been doing a great job of polluting its air, water and food; as well as bringing some of its animals close to extinction. When will he ever learn to do the right things?

  3. The Pope has a right to speak on scientific affairs just as much as anyone on the planet has! The Roman Catholic Church has contributed much to science, such as in the field of genetics and this is just one of its many contributions to science.
    “Mother Earth” refers to the fact that the earth supports and nourishes our physical bodies, plants, water, etc. It is common sense to preserve the earth for all of us as well as for future generations. Particularly the Amazon.

  4. Pope Francis appointed Peruvian Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani to his Council for the Economy. “Under his leadership the Archdiocese of Lima became an investor in the stocks of one of the most controversial mining companies, Yanacocha, which sparked the mobilization of large-scale environmental social movement in the country … ‘We have never heard him defending a community that is confronting a mine or a company for pollution. His voice is not on the side of indigenous peoples or farming communities.’ Cipriani was a staunch supporter of former head of state Alberto Fujimori, who is currently serving in prison for crimes against humanity. He has a record of condemning LGBT, women and environmental activists.” http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Peruvian-Archbishop-Has-Stock-in-Controversial-Mining-Company–20150623-0034.html

  5. The pope is a marxist heretic.

    Mary is not “silly.” The pope is silly. Atheism is silly.

    Mary is the mother of God, and your mother as He dictated. You’ll find out at some point.

  6. You of all people ought to know better.

    You’re a symptom, as is Bergoglio.

  7. Speak for yourself, Max.

    The earth is no more my “mother” than you are.

    But I’m not surprised you’re enmeshed in such maudlin silliness.

  8. “The goods of the earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage.”

    “parade his property” is a bad translation. I’d be happy to be corrected, but “ostente la propiedad,” the phrase the Pope used, means exercise ownership over property. Also, in the same sentence, but for some reason not translated here, the Pope said owning property is “lícito”: proper, licit.

  9. The more the Pope yammers on about global warming, or cooling, or climate change, or whatever the latest phraseology is, the more he highlights the quasi-religiosity of a belief that admits of no means of verification or falsification — as per the claim that frigid winters are as proof-positive as sweltering summers.

  10. Pope Francis is the latest example of the Catholic Church’s failure to move fully away from its medieval, land-based, zero-sum view of economics and wealth. While plenty of Catholic laypeople have done wonderful jobs in breaking out of that box, the Vatican struggles still.

  11. The angel who told Mary she would miraculously give birth to Jesus did not say that he would be God:

    “You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called SON of the Most High… The child will be holy and will be called the SON OF GOD” (Luke 1:31-35).

    Jesus had earthly brothers and sisters as well, after he was born. Those who lived in Nazareth had later asked him:

    “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary and his brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sisters, are they not with us?” (Matt. 1:25; 13:55,56; Mark 6:3).

    Jesus’ immediate family consisted of his parents, Joseph and Mary, 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters.

    We all have our earthly mothers who gave birth to us, but Mary had nothing to do with that, and she is not our Mother.

  12. Scientific consensus!?! A term in every article across the spectrum. There is no such thing as a “scientific consensus”! Science speaks for itself. Science requires proof, validated with the scientific method. If something is proven, no consensus is necessary! If a consensus exists, that means others are outside the consensus who have valid claims that cannot be refuted with the current evidence.

    Computer models alone have never been considered by scientists to prove anything, they are a starting point and an assistance to real research. There must be corresponding evidence in observations of the subject (in this case the planet and it’s ecosystem).

    We do not have a scientific consensus on earthquakes, volcanoes, windstorms, or whether it will rain tomorrow! There certainly is no scientific “consensus” on AGW or no scientists (hundreds) would be speaking against it. There is only a political consensus.

  13. For the past 45 years, the environmental movement has been corrupted by ideologues who push it to proclaim one apocalyptic scare after another….with not one of them panning out in the real world.

    First, there was Paul Ehrlich and his ridiculous warning that the US and Europe were heading toward mass starvation due to population growth.

    Then there was the global cooling scare.

    Then there were a million little scares, all of which had one thing in common — the belief that humanity was somehow plundering and pillaging and raping poor Mother Earth.

    Time after time, these activists were caught attributing to humanity the things that were occurring solely in nature, by nature, and through nature.

    Sometimes, it actually cost human lives, as with the dimwitted decision to ban DDT completely rather than regulate it intensively. DDT had saved lives in some of the world’s poorest countries and was poised to wipe malaria off the planet.

  14. The Pope has a right to speak on anything he wants, but listeners have the right to tell him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he parrots nonsense coming out of the politically correct Vatican bureaucracy. John Paul II and his successor were able to push back at least on some issues, but this one apparently doesn’t have the ability or inclination to do so.

  15. “The Pope has a right to speak on scientific affairs just as much as anyone on the planet has!”

    Of course, Sister. However, the Holy Father’s message is undermined by his ignorance when he swallows the bait of “scientific consensus” hook line, and sinker. Scientists do not pronounce “trends” to be “fact” based on “majority vote.”

    Furthermore, the data supporting the hypothesis of global warming, for example, was corrupted by “experts” with axes to grind. (Proof? Google “East Anglia University” and hockey stick.”)

    Pope Francis’ lack of scientific credentials, combined with his apparent credulousness, make him no more an authority on the environment than … I am.

    “The Roman Catholic Church has contributed much to science, such as in the field of genetics and this is just one of its many contributions to science.”

    This pope’s wandering in the scientific wilderness is but dimly lit by the reflected glory of Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking work in…

  16. Jack,
    “…a belief that admits of no verification or falsification…”
    Verification and falsification were brought in by the Logical Positivists, A. J. Ayer, Karl popper etc. for meaningfulness of statements before proceeding to their truth or falsehood and thereby to establish something as a fact. They had to run for cover changing the versions of their principle of meaningfulness of statements innumerable times, let alone their truth or reality. The final blow was dealt by Ludwig Wittgenstein through his philosophical analysis of language whereby “language games” determine meanings of words and statements. All kinds of language, including the scientific and the religious ones can thus be meaningful from where they may proceed to inspect their truth or reality.
    John P. S.

  17. Glad to see all the conservo Catholics lining up in faithful obedience to the teaching of the Pope. After all, that’s what a true Catholic does – not the cafeteria-Catholic who picks and chooses which Vatican doctrine or teaching it will follow and which it will disregard. Like divorce and remarriage, contraception, etc. Funny how things come around and around…

  18. “Scientists do not pronounce “trends” to be “fact” based on “majority vote.”

    No, they come to a consensus based on evidence presented and whether there is countervailing ones out there.

    Patricia, you have no clue how scientific ideas are actually adopted. A couple of cranks online do not amount to a pile of horsecrap when compared to the overwhelming evidence presented in peer reviewed studies on the subject coming to a given conclusion or trend.

    The Pope may not be an expert in environmental science, but he is doing what sane people do under such circumstances. He is accepting the current thinking of experts in the field at the time.

  19. Never heard of professional scientific societies in given fields? I guess so. Consensus is really more of a matter of demonstrating how many studies/articles are given for a given scientific POV.


    “That’s according to James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, who reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles on climate change published between 2013 and 2014.

    Powell identified 69,406 authors named in the articles, four of which rejected climate change as being caused by human emissions.”

  20. So scientific ideas are allegedly unreliable because they keep revising themselves according to new evidence, improved technology and methodology. Riiiight.

    “Time after time, these activists were caught attributing to humanity the things that were occurring solely in nature, by nature, and through nature.”

    When did this happen?
    People naturally had high levels of lead, petroleum distillates and heavy metals in their water supplies!

    Water is supposed to be flammable!

    Invasive species and destruction of natural habitats are doing nothing of importance!

  21. Earth is referred to as “Mother” as is “Mother Nature” but you would probably agree that those personas do not actually exist. Nature can be defined as all that exists and all that occurs naturally. The planets, stars, life (including human life), environment, etc. are all part of nature. Nature exists and changes naturally without the need for a human-like persona (God) to create it. Gods are just more human invented fictional characters like “Mother Nature” and “Father Time”.

  22. Well John P.S., the problem with such theories is that they refute themselves. If I say that words are malleable and mean what we want them to mean, that includes the words I’ve just typed. Again, the claim refutes itself.

    The verifiable/falsifiable test speaks for itself. If both warming and cooling supposedly prove warming, then obviously something is wrong. For a theory to be scientific, as opposed to superstitious or magical, there have to be a set of facts, which, if present, would refute the theory. If no conceivable set of facts, if present, could refute it, then belief in it is not based on science, but on blind faith.

  23. No Larry, the point is that the most apocalyptic claims spewing forth from the ideologically driven environmental movement have nothing to do with science. That’s why they keep getting refuted by reality. It is ideology, not science, that is getting its butt kicked here. When Ehrlich was predicting mass starvation in the West due to population increases, that had nothing to do with science. It was frenzied speculation on his part, based on his ignorance about the complex relationship between population and resources.

  24. The pope is not exactly the brightest bulb on the planet, but that’s obvious. He’s stuck in a 1970s time warp and doesn’t seem to have learned anything from the decades that followed.

  25. Fran, are you making the point that Jesus was NOT God in the flesh and that he was conceived and born of earthly parents?

  26. Jack,
    Which theory are you talking about? The kind of linguistic analysis practiced by Wittgenstein does not admit of any theory for the meaningfulness of language used. Then again, you are thinking of only scientific statements, where verification and falsification are in place in their restricted sense. Do you think that Bertrand Russel and G. E. Moore, Wittgenstein’s professors at the Cambridge University before whom he defended his doctoral dissertation “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” were incapable of understanding Wittgenstein’s logic? Both of them admitted that their positions were untenable before Wittgenstein’s way of analyzing language where ordinary, everyday language is perfectly in order as it is . The “atomic statements ” of Russell and the “common sense” philosophy of Moore gave way before Wittgenstein’s analysis of ordinary language without which even scientific statements were shown to be meaningless!
    John P. S.

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