Pope Francis is not the first pontiff to insist that caring for the environment is a responsibility of every Christian. But he has been the most forceful, mincing no words in his often harsh and anguished calls for urgent action.
Earlier this year, he issued the first-ever papal encyclical on the environment. The document made clear he intends to use the power of the papacy, magnified by his immense popular appeal, to press the world’s political leaders to take forceful steps to reduce greenhouse gases.
He is expected to make a direct appeal on his trip this week to the United States, where he will speak to the United Nations, as well as Congress, and meet privately with President Obama.
Here are seven of the pope’s strongest statements on the environment:
“God always forgives, we men forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives. If you give her a slap, she will give you one. I believe that we have exploited nature too much.”—Press conference, flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, January 15, 2015
“As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.” —Speech, Manila, Philippines, January 18, 2015
“A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.”—Meditation, Vatican City, February 9, 2015
“May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care.”—General audience, Vatican City, April 22, 2015
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”—Papal encyclical, Vatican City, May 24, 2015
"We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!”—Remarks, meeting with political, business and community leaders, Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015
“Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity. Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”—Speech, Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015