VATICAN CITY (RNS) — In a message to young people attending an event in Italy on the environmental crisis, Pope Francis encouraged activists to promote human relationships and environmental protections by overcoming divisions.
“There must be harmony between people — men and women — and the environment,” the pope said in his recorded message at the Youth4Climate event taking place in Milan on Sept. 28-30.
“We are not enemies; we are not indifferent. We are part of this cosmic harmony,” he added.
Hundreds of young environmental activists from about 190 countries convened in Milan, Italy, this week to discuss the progress — or lack of — toward government action in addressing the climate and energy crisis. Discussions at the climate talks in Italy have been fraught, with young activists decrying the empty promises of political leaders and demanding real action.
“Thirty years of blah, blah, blah,” said climate activist Greta Thunberg during the opening session of the event on Tuesday (Sept. 28). “So-called leaders have cherry-picked young people to meetings like this to pretend they are listening to us, but they are not listening,” she added.
Francis praised young people for “challenging the adult world” and showing they are prepared “not only for action but also for patient listening, constructive dialogue and mutual understanding.”
In 2019, the Vatican and Pope Francis launched a global compact on education with the purpose of promoting formation in young people around environmental, fraternal and charitable issues in Catholic and non-Catholic schools. Catholic schools and universities around the world educate more than 11 million students.
Pope Francis urged young people to combine their efforts “through an extensive educational alliance to form decent, mature generations, capable of overcoming fragmentation and rebuilding the fabric of relationships so that we can achieve a more fraternal humanity.”
The “dreams and good projects” of young people can come to life through creativity and action, the pope said, from overcoming energy poverty to sustainability and the creation of a circular economy.
“It is said that you are the future, but in these matters, you are the present, you are those who are making the future today, in the present,” he added.
In August, the United Nations reported a catastrophic scenario if nations are not able to come together to address the environmental crisis.
World leaders will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, in November for the UN summit COP26, which promises to enact and reinforce the ambitious goals set during the Paris Agreement in 2015. Young people at the summit in Italy will send their recommendations and ideas to some of the attendees of COP26.
Pope Francis is scheduled to attend the COP26 meeting and deliver an address. Ever since the pontiff released his “Green encyclical” Laudato Si in 2015, he has emerged as a leading figure in promoting the protection of the environment and peaceful coexistence between humanity and the planet.