Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The world's poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact," Pope Francis said. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

Deeming Pollution of Earth Sinful, Pope Proposes Climate Action as Sacred Duty

Humans are turning the planet into a 'polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation, and filth,' says Pope Francis

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Pope Francis on Thursday put forth an urgent call for people to actively work to save the environment, proposing that the Catholic Church add such a duty to the list of "seven mercies," which includes feeding the hungry and visiting the sick, which Catholics are required to perform.

"We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour."
—Pope Francis
"Francis described man's destruction of the environment as a sin," the Guardian reported.

"The modern world has new forms of poverty, Francis said, and thus requires new forms of mercy to address them," the Washington Post noted.

In his speech to mark the church's World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which the pope created last year, Francis accused humans of turning the Earth into a "polluted wasteland full of debris, desolation, and filth."

Remarking on the planet's rapid warming, Francis observed that "[c]limate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world's poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact."

"We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour," he said. "Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence."

"We have no such right," Francis said.

Francis' speech built on ideas he first put forth last year in Laudato Si, his unprecedented encyclical on climate change and environmental protection.

Earlier this month, Francis also excoriated capitalism for leading to endless war.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Rights Groups Call Biden Order for Spying, Data Sharing Deal With EU 'Insufficient'

"The White House has failed to grapple meaningfully with the privacy questions at the heart of this issue," said one critic. "Congress must act where the administration has not."

Jessica Corbett ·


UK Accused of Giving 'Two Fingers Up' to Climate With New Oil and Gas Licenses

"By encouraging greedy fossil fuel companies to keep looking for more fossil fuels, the U.K. government is denying the reality of the climate emergency," said one campaigner.

Julia Conley ·


Naomi Klein Spotlights Perils of UN Climate Summit Hosted by Despotic Egyptian Regime

"Unless political freedoms are defended, there will be no meaningful climate action. Not in Egypt, nor anywhere else. These issues are intertwined, as are our fates."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Dangerous Moment': Record Deforestation in Amazon Shows Stakes of Brazil Election

The runoff between Bolsonaro and Lula, warned one activist, is "not just about the future of Brazil, the result will have an impact on all of humanity."

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Warn Fed-Induced Recession Will 'Throw Millions of Americans Out of Work'

"It takes a while for higher interest rates to have a big impact," one expert stressed, "and there's a huge concern the Fed has overshot and secured a recession in coming months."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo