The Holy See Takes On The Fight Against Climate Change

Rio de Janeiro - Papa Francisco embarca de volta para Roma na base aérea do Galeão. Antes participa de cerimônia de despedida com o vice-presidente Michel Temer. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farewell_to_Pope_Francis_in_the_Gale%C3%A3o_Air_Force_Base.jpg

The Holy See has played a very important role for a very long time for global issues addressing major challenges our world faces. The Holy See is a State government with universal reach over Catholics around the world operating from Vatican City, in Italy. Its main duty is to provide moral guidance to followers of the Catholic Church and for many non-followers as well. The Holy See has a huge spiritual influence and power that compares to no others in the entire world. The Holy See consistently cooperates with all the nations in the world with diplomatic relations in order to protect human rights, maintain peace, prevent conflicts, eliminate poverty, shield the environment, and unite all humanity. The Vatican advocates for human dignity and justice facing the existential threat of global warming. Pope Francis said, “The Time for seeking global solutions is running out. We can find suitable solutions only if we act together and in agreement.”1 Pope Francis is clearly aware of the menace climate change and poor environmental conditions present to humanity. The Holy See places a particular emphasis on those who are less fortunate and live in poor and unsafe environments. Pope Francis is aware that climate change endangers future generations who may not be able to mitigate its impacts unless we start addressing it today,  The Vatican’s law declared human rights as a priority. Without a doubt, the environment is also a priority on the Vatican agenda. The Vatican’s worldly authority as a conciliator, hopes to protect human rights and guarantee equal treatment regardless of their, race, religion, gender, and nationality. According to the Vatican and Pope Francis, climate change has developed problems that need solutions as soon as possible.2

Pastoral visit of Pope Francis to Korea | Courtesy of Wikimedia

How did the Vatican begin its role in international affairs? With the Canon Law, it established true dignity and actions to develop social order for all human beings. Formed in 1917, this legislation and code assured the dignities of each person and strictly contradicted any forms that violate human decency. There cannot be human dignity without access to clean water, clean air, and safe environmental conditions. Climate change and its impacts put many lives at risk. It affects everyone, regardless of social status. In order to better understand the purpose of the Canon Law, one must be aware that it is divided into four periods. Before 1917, the Catholic Church still had a guidance and regulations to follow under what was morally acceptable. Those four periods include: the ius antiquum, ius novum, ius novissimum, and the Codex Iuris Canonici.3 All these periods in time are distinct because they followed different priorities and rules the Vatican had. Today, one of the main priorities that the Vatican underlines climate change throughout the world . This issue is equally essential to many other countries all over the world. In the Code of 1917, history is divided into ius vetus, which was everything before 1917, and ius novum, also known as the law of the code. One concern that the Catholic Church championed is access to clean energy to assure environmental justice.4 As the impacts of climate change cause increasing damage each year, Pope Francis has tried to bring more awareness about the issue by requiring Catholic schools make plans about educating their students about its many negative impacts on all of us.5

The relationship between human and law is very intricate and elaborate, as it often reflects the assumptions that are made in society and portrayed as either good or bad. The laws in a certain culture or nation shape the development of rights and regulation applied. How did the Vatican become so influential in the world about human rights? The answer is the Lateran Treaty. The Lateran Treaty was a very important agreement made in 1929 and signed by Mussolini as prime minister which gave papal sovereignty over the Vatican City. This accord gave several attributes to the Vatican that changed its power forever.6 Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the influence and control the Holy See has with other countries in order to determine how it can create a change in regard to climate change. To this end, the Vatican has been urging for the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate as the most important documents. The Paris Agreement intends to curb States, corporations, and individual behaviors to slow down global warming linked with climate change. 196 countries have negotiated and signed the Paris Agreement in order to solidify this crucial movement. The Paris Agreement emissions goals aim to reduce the risks to many countries and improve environmental conditions globally. The Vatican urges respect for its goals. Increased severity of storms, flooding, hurricanes, typhoons, and other water level rises provide evidence of climate change. Pope Francis has stated a variety of times that climate change is an emergency and that the time to fix it is now.7

Papal diplomacy in maintaining law and order in society. The diplomacy is targeted to sustain a mutual relationship between Church and State in order to bring out hope and peace, and to boost religious, moral, and social order all over the planet. The diplomacy of the Holy See may be regarded as one of the oldest in world history. This is significant because it highlights how the religious orders and principles that the Vatican have spread for many centuries have helped it develop strong relationships with leaders around the world whether Catholic or not. Throughout history, its diplomatic powers have consistently increased and been more recognized. Pope Francis has consistently criticized the response and actions all over the world that fail to address climate change. Pope Francis believes that diplomats and governments all over the world are doing a very poor job focusing on this real and major issue. Pope Francis has also declared that it seems that some countries are not worried about the matter. Their lack of actions and efforts have created a major concern for Pope Francis and the Vatican.8

Pope Francis met with media. https://www.flickr.com/photos/27340278@N03/8562382106

Pope Francis’ main argument was that humanity deserves to have access to good ecological resources and to the best Eco-friendly conditions granted by God so that peace and tranquility could once again rule over the world. Each person must be able to enjoy all human rights and especially the right to life. Every human deserves it without any threat. Climate change threatens lives around the globe from the dangers that come from very intense & harsh storms, rising sea levels, thawing of ice in the Arctic, increases in overall temperatures, extreme rainfall and droughts. and many other extreme events like ravaging fires and landslides also connected to climate change. Not only is climate change affecting our overall health but also challenging many human rights. Having the opportunity to be healthy and live under safe conditions must be afforded for all of humanity and must be respected. Pope Francis acknowledges that we cannot pursue happiness and promote a better future generation when we unless we halt climate change. However, in a period of tension, competition, and danger basic rights are at best ignored and at worst crushed. Pope Francis has declared that there is ‘lack of progress’ when it comes to climate change and that the will to make a difference has vanished. Pope Francis says that governments are focusing on other issues and attention to climate change has gone away. However, Pope Francis has consistently reminded diplomats that attention worldwide needs to focus back on climate change. It is time for humanity to finally enjoy ecological justice again and follow the moral path of kindness for all. We need to open up a new ideology in which the health and environmental conditions of all people are a priority.9

New problems arise every single day, which leaves climate change behind. According to the United Nations, Human Rights are fundamental rights that are given to every single human regardless of their race, sex, religion, nationality, or any type of other status. There are many rights that the United Nations considers essential to every human being. Some of those rights includes life, liberty, freedom from slavery, freedom of opinion, a right to have an education, and many others. However, many countries are failing to consider the human right to health and a safe environment. Humans should live under the best conditions possible. Everyone should be entitled to rights because they are necessary in every human soul in order to satisfy their needs, fulfill happiness, and go against abuse of people with power. One of the most important and vital achievements the United Nations has accomplished has been creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. The Holy See has been a strong advocate for this document. The Paris Climate Agreement is similar to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the sense that they were both created in the United Nations. Not only that, but they are both recognized and respected by most countries. However, our solutions towards climate change need a lot of improvements and Pope Francis knows it.10

Today, the United States and the Vatican differ on climate change. The United States government had recognized climate change and many organizations and groups support . However, the current Trump administration exited the Paris Climate Agreement. The Trump administration believes that the climate deal does not bring domestic benefits in regard to American people, taxpayers, and businesses. Trump believes that it is very expensive and that in general it could bring the country down.11

On the other side of the spectrum, the Vatican believes that the fight against climate change is absolutely necessary and a major component is the Paris Agreement. Worldwide, countries need to try and unite. The Holy See declared that if the United States reverted its mindset they would always be welcomed back into the deal. The United States has not formally departed from the deal. President Elect Biden and his incoming administration believe that the Paris Agreement is very important. President Elect Biden believes that climate change is one of the main issues his administration will address once in office. He wants regulations to enforce clean air and create jobs that are environmentally friendly. Two different ideologies but space for only one president. The election outcome will affect how the United States will adress climate change.12

According to the NASA, there are many ‘observable effects’ produced by climate change. Scientists from all over the world have predicted that temperatures in the world will continue to rise, primarily because of our contamination to the environment.13 Pope Francis has consistently been an advocate for the environment and tries to raise awareness about climate change. Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si, in which he criticizes what we have done with the environment and indicts all for our actions.14 Laudato Si has 9 main takeaways. The first is the moral and spiritual challenge. Pope Francis says that it is morally wrong what we have done with our ecosystem and that God would not have wanted us to destroy the gift He provided to us. The second point is that we need to take care of the beautiful creation God gave us all. Pope Francis mentions that God gave us life and developed everything we see. We, as humans, have the duty to protect our environment because we live in it. The next point is the fact that we are all connected and united. We are one world. If we destroy our environment and do not take care of our planet our future generations will deeply suffer. We need to be aware and protect our home together. Another point and crucial consideration are the effect climate change is having on the poor. The poor population worldwide contributes the least towards climate change, yet they are affected the most. Climate change affects their daily lives in ways that are disastrous. Their homes are shattered after storms, they do not have access to clean water, no fresh air, and even poor environmental conditions. The fifth point is a call to solidarity to all of us. We must unite in this cause because this planet is home to all of us. We must not be selfish and think that it only affects some of us. The sixth point that the Pope makes refers to the technological and economic development that this new change would bring to the entire world. People have more new jobs and have access to other sources of energy. It is important that we actualize ourselves. The seventh point is about supporting life and protecting creation. Climate change threatens life itself. Climate change endangers species and vulnerable people are at major risk. We must conserve the precious life we have in our planet. The eight point is that it is truly time to act before it is too late. Francis urges everyone to contribute and make a change before it is too late. We need to improve the quality of life of everyone and have hope better things will come. Finally, the last point Pope Francis makes is about hope and joy. We need to have hope that better things will come even though statistics may paint a gloomier picture. We must be proud and grateful for our blessings and use our God given gifts to protect our planet. ever piece of our earth is a blessing we must preserve.14

Pope Francis greeting his audience. https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/26307257936/

We need to value nature and all of its beauty. Improving the ecosystem and defeating climate change will bring so many benefits to humanity as a whole. It will not only improve the quality of life, but also reduce health-related problems that are caused by climate change. Many times, we visualize abuse and torture, unfair trials, and restricted freedom of expression. Destroying the planet is also a violation of our right to live. It is an abuse to our right to be happy. It is limiting our freedom to take a breath without exposure to deadly chemicals and contamination. We often see discrimination against minorities. Many vulnerable groups and nations continue to be affected by the monstrosities that climate change is leaving behind. We see violence happening everywhere, often fostered by the poverty that comes into community that have been devastated by climate change and accelerated by human activities that ravage our precious environment.16

On December 10, 2018, Pope Francis gave a message how the Vatican fights for human rights at the International Conference on Human Rights. Pope Francis made 5 major points. He mentioned that every single person deserves equal dignity.17 Francis emphasized that many rights are interconnected and meant to be universal. There is no authority in the world that should be acting against human rights. Human rights are just as important as the soul is essential to the human body. The environment and the quality of life of people is without a doubt a major right that humanity as a whole should protect. Human rights are rooted in us ever since we are born. Take a tree for example. Without its roots, there is no tree that cannot grow. Pope Francis went on to say that human dignity cannot be ignored. There are many injustices that persist. We must never forget about our history in order to bring out a better future. The Pope also declared that we must unite because it is a call from God to every Christian in the world. We must have the courage and determination to reduce suffering in the world. Protecting human rights can help us come together for a cleaner and healthier planet, the best legacy for future generations.  Finally, Pope Francis ended his message by mentioning that he hopes to inspire many people to reflect about the mistake of forgetting human rights.17

In conclusion, the Holy See and the human rights have always been interrelated. The Vatican has contributed in a variety of ways to the expansion of the protection of human rights. Pope Francis has continued to legitimatize the need to address climate change and acknowledging it as a threat, especially to the populations already most vulnerable around the world. Pope Francis recognized the harm climate change is bringing into our communities and calls all of us to do our part in slowing global warming. Pope Francis wrote encyclicals urging bishops and countries all over the world to be mindful of which human activities provide for a kinder future. Pope Francis has motivated governments all over the world and big corporations to unite and come to mutual agreements in order to cultivate and protect our Earth, an essential human right.  Specifically, the Vatican continues to fight against climate change and advocate for the protection of the environment.  The Holy See serves as a moral guide and awakes the consciousness of those who do harm in this world. We need to acknowledge the importance of global warming and bring the best resolutions possible. The Vatican will continue the fight for minorities by supporting more ethical decision making by governments and corporations. The Vatican continues its diplomatic relations pushing for more respect of all humans’ rights. Together we can defeat climate change and one day bring a better world for everyone!

Seed in Our Nature. https://www.inournaturemag.com/~inournat/tag/seed
  1. Pope invites Countdown participants on a journey toward climate change. (2020, October 11). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-10/pope-ted-countdown-climate-change-video-message.html.
  2. “How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges.” How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges | Concordat Watch – Religious Threats to Human Rights, www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-47307.834.
  3. “How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges.” How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges | Concordat Watch – Religious Threats to Human Rights, www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-47307.834.
  4. “Pope: Human Rights First, Even If It Means Going against the Tide.” Vatican News, 10 Dec. 2018, www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-message-human-rights-day-international-conference.html.
  5. “Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/.
  6. “How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges.” How the Vatican Evades Human Rights Obligations through Canon Law, Diplomatic Immunity and Other Dodges | Concordat Watch – Religious Threats to Human Rights, www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-47307.834.
  7. Steven Mufson, B. (2020, October 30). The U.S. will leave the Paris climate accord on Nov. 4. But voters will decide for how long. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/10/30/us-paris-climate-agreement-trump-biden/.
  8. Knutson, J. (2020, October 10). Pope Francis calls on world to act with “urgency” to curb climate change. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.axios.com/pope-francis-climate-change-carbon-emissions-453d6e9a-9b73-419b-ae8a-476bd648ea15.html.
  9. Francis criticizes world’s ‘very weak’ response to climate change in address to diplomats. (2020, January 09). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/francis-criticizes-worlds-very-weak-response-climate-change-address-diplomats.
  10. “Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations. Retrieved November 05,2020, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/.
  11. Mathiesen, K. (2017, May 24). Pope Francis gives Trump a climate change message. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/05/24/pope-francis-gives-trump-climate-change-message/.
  12. Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://earthministry.org/advocacy/pope-francis-encyclical-on-the-environment/.
  13. The Effects of Climate Change. (2020, August 21). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/.
  14. Laudato si’ (24 May 2015): Francis. (2015, June 18). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
  15. Laudato si’ (24 May 2015): Francis. (2015, June 18). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.
  16. Pope invites Countdown participants on a journey toward climate change. (2020, October 11). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-10/pope-ted-countdown-climate-change-video-message.html.
  17. “Pope: Human Rights First, Even If It Means Going against the Tide.” Vatican News, 10 Dec. 2018, www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-message-human-rights-day-international-conference.html.
  18. “Pope: Human Rights First, Even If It Means Going against the Tide.” Vatican News, 10 Dec. 2018, www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-message-human-rights-day-international-conference.html.

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17 Responses

  1. Pope Francis has been more vocal on contemporary and global issues, more than any other pope that we have seen in recent history. Given the previous Popes I doubt that many would have ever thought that the Church would ever take such a prominent role in the fight against climate change, but Pope Francis has gone above and beyond in doing so. The action undertaken by the Pope has really marked a point of transition for the Catholic Church.

  2. I enjoyed reading this article. I had no idea that the Catholic Churches had to deal with violent ways before. Catholicism can remain a real religion now in our modern times especially with our popes. We learned about environmentalism in one of my core classes here at St. Mary’s and I didn’t think that was something that could turn into a problem with human rights. Very well written!

  3. I really liked this article and especially for Catholic people like myself. I really enjoy that the Pope is really wanting to change things and the way we humans treat our home earth. Pope Francis is really a great Pope and we can see it and all the things he’s trying to show us and also trying to change in order to help with the climate change which is bringing a lot of problems to earth.

  4. Great job on this article, I really liked how in detail the everything was and I am extremely glad to hear that Pope Francis is helping make this world a better place. I wish I had known about the situations sooner but that’s what articles like this are for, to inform the general public and glad Victor did a great job. Great article!

  5. Pope Francis is an honorable person, he stood up and called for the protection of the climate, the ecology, and human life. Thank you Victor for providing such an informative article. I like the way you list the extreme disasters caused by global warming like the very intense storms, Sea levels rise, thawing of ice,… and how they linked to human rights.

  6. This article was very motivating and uplifting for me! I am happy to see a pope that is concerned and involved in modern problems. The Pope and religious leaders are a powerful voice and it’s great to know he is using it to advocate for issues such as climate change, and I agree with his thinking that this is a human rights issue because it’s implication threaten our home, and many people lose their homes yearly to the effects of climate change!

  7. Hearing that the new pope has started to look and tackle climate change is so nice to hear. It really makes me confident in the new pope. I wish the Trump administration would see eye to eye with the new pope as well. I was also quite surprised to learn about papal diplomacy. I did not know the Vatican had a system in place to maintain law and order.

  8. I haven’t been able to catch up on what has been going on within the Catholic Church as of later, and having read that “Pope Francis’ main argument was that humanity deserves to have access to good ecological resources…” somehow just makes so much sense! Without a good environment for people to live within, then resources won’t be able to flourish and people won’t be able to have the basic means to survive. Great article and thank you!

  9. Great job Victor! This was an amazing article that is very important to many people in the world specially Catholic that maybe be confused of whether we should belief and support climate change or not. There were many great points brought up and a strong message. The pope is calling for a change, a change in the way that we treat our planet and explaining to us why it is our duty as human beings to take care of our planet for our own sake as well as the generations to come.

  10. I am glad to see that the corrupt and violent ways of the Catholic Church have been mostly left in the past. With the recent popes, I feel that Catholicism can remain a legitimate religion in these modern times. I never would have thought of environmentalism as a human rights issue, but now it does make sense thanks to this article.

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