VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday praised young people for their efforts to protect the Earth’s environment and told them to “be the critical conscience of society.”
Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, filled with hundreds of young faithful, to mark a church day focused on youth in dioceses worldwide.
“You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task,″ the pontiff said, ”to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing.”
Francis expressed thanks “for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God’s creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing.”
He noted that many young people have criticized environmental contamination.
“We need this,” Francis said.
The pontiff said that in a world that “thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream. We need to ensure that the environment is cleaner, purer and that it is conserved. We must care for nature so that nature may care for us.”
“Be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society,” Francis exhorted young people.
Social justice and care of the environment have been key messages of his papacy.
Francis has urged presidents and prime ministers to act courageously in addressing climate change, and to learn from the coronavirus pandemic the need to create “a just, equitable, environmentally safe planet.” Both the global catastrophes, Covid and climate change, prove that we do not have time to wait,” Francis recently said in a pre-recorded video for Earth Day Live. “Time urges us, and as COVID-19 demonstrated, we do have the tools to face the loss. We have the instruments. This is the moment to act. We are at the edge. We need to ensure that the environment is cleaner, purer and that it is conserved. We must care for nature so that nature may care for us,” Francis recently said.
The pope is expected to meet with young people from all over the world at the Catholic church’s jamboree in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023.