Pope Francis charges ‘ecological debt’ amid heat in Europe

Pope Francis on Thursday urged world leaders to heed the Earth’s “chorus of cries of anguish” stemming from climate change, extreme weather and loss of biodiversity.

In a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, he urged nations to tackle climate change with equal attention to global challenges such as wars and health crises, saying that global warming harms poor and indigenous populations the most.

Francis said rich countries have an “ecological debt” because they are the ones who have caused the most environmental pollution in the last two centuries, disrupting the rhythm of nature.

“Tragically, this sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish. Or better still: a chorus of cries of anguish. First of all, it is our sister, Mother Earth, who cries out. Victim of our consumerist excesses, she cries and begs us to let us end our abuses and her destruction,” he wrote.

Emergency services have been responding to wildfires in parts of southern Europe amid brutal heat waves this week, prompting warnings that the fight against climate change needs to be stepped up.

The appeal comes a few days before the pope leaves for a trip to Canada, where he will meet with indigenous people in Iqaluit, in the Canadian arctic, which is part of the fastest-warming region in North America.

“Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more severely the impact of drought, floods, hurricanes and increasingly intense and frequent heat waves,” Francis said.

“In the same way, our brothers and sisters of the indigenous peoples are crying out. Due to predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated from all sides, causing a cry that rises to the heavens.”

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