Pope Francis has called care for God’s creation one of “the great moral issues of our time” in a letter expressing his regret that he could not attend the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.
“Time is running out; this occasion must not be wasted, lest we have to face God’s judgment for our failure to be faithful stewards of the world he has entrusted to our care,” the pope wrote in a letter to Catholics in Scotland signed Nov. 9.
The pope’s message was read out by Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the papal nuncio to Great Britain and Scotland, at a live-streamed Mass at St. Augustine’s Church in Coatbridge, a town eight miles east of Glasgow.
In the message, Pope Francis said that he was pleased to hear that Catholics in Scotland were praying for a fruitful outcome to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, taking place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
The Glasgow climate summit is meant to “address one of the great moral issues of our time: the preservation of God’s creation, given to us as a garden to be cultivated and as a common home for our human family,” he said.
“Let us implore God’s gifts of wisdom and strength upon those charged with guiding the international community as they seek to meet this grave challenge with concrete decisions inspired by responsibility towards present and future generations.”
Pope Francis has sought to galvanize efforts to protect the environment since his election in 2013. He issued the encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015, ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, which negotiated the Paris Agreement.
One of the goals of COP26 is to encourage governments to implement the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“As you know, I had hoped to take part in the COP26 meeting in Glasgow and to spend some time, however briefly, with you. I regret that this did not prove possible,” Pope Francis said.
The 84-year-old pope expressed his affection for Catholics in Scotland and asked them to pray for him.
“In these challenging times, may all Christ’s followers in Scotland renew their commitment to be convincing witnesses to the joy of the Gospel and its power to bring light and hope to every effort to build a future of justice, fraternity, and prosperity, both material and spiritual,” he said.