Pope Francis has been wading into environmental issues during his week-long Asian tour, but he issued the strongest words on Sunday, when he said that man was betraying God’s calling by destroying nature. Or at least that’s what he was supposed to say at a rally with young people at a university in Manila. But the pope ended up being moved by the story of an abandoned girl so he improvised a speech. Still, the Vatican has said that when the pope decides to improvise, the prepared text is official, notes Reuters.
“As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family,” the pope said in the prepared text. “When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.”
The pope also pointed out that youth in the Philippines should feel a special obligation to care for the environment. “This is not only because this country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change,” he said in the prepared text. “You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!”
He also appeared to chastise those who think that simply by buying environmentally friendly products and recycling they are doing enough for the cause. “Respect for the environment means more than simply using cleaner products or recycling what we use. These are important aspects, but not enough,” he said.
In a celebration of Sunday Mass in Manila where 6 million people gathered to hear the pope’s words, he once again touched on the environment. God “created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it,” Francis said, according to the New York Times. “Through sin, man has disfigured that natural beauty. Through sin, man has also destroyed the unity and beauty of our human family, creating social structures that perpetuate poverty, ignorance and corruption.”
The words came days after the pope said he believed people were mostly responsible for climate change. “I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said when he was traveling from Sri Lanka to Manila, according to the Associated Press. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” Francis added that “I think we have exploited nature too much.” The pope noted that his widely awaited encyclical on the environment would be released by June or July and expressed hope that it could influence the climate change negotiations in Paris in November. The pontiff expressed disappointment that last year’s Peru conference did not go far enough.
“The meetings in Peru were nothing much, I was disappointed,” he said. “There was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. We hope that in Paris the representatives will be more courageous going forward.”