Bishop Arnold presents interfaith environment pledge to Pope Francis

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Pope Francis held a private audience with faith and civic leaders from Greater Manchester this week as they shared their commitment to caring for our common home.

On Thursday 20 April, the region’s faith and civic leaders attended a private audience with The Holy Father to discuss how Greater Manchester is tackling the climate emergency, and to make a formal commitment to working together to protect our planet and to care for our brothers and sisters around the world.

The delegation was led by the Catholic Bishop of Salford, Bishop John Arnold, and the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, and also welcomed the Dean of Salford Cathedral, Canon Michael Jones, and the Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford, Dr Emma Gardner.

In his address to the Pope, Bishop John reflected on the example Pope Francis has given to all faiths and none in shining a light on the climate emergency, saying:

“Holy Father, we thank you for your leadership in alerting the world’s attention to the urgent dangers of climate change and the need for ecological conversion. Following statements of your predecessors, particular Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, your encyclical Laudato Si’ spoke not only to members of the Catholic Church but to all Christians and to all people of goodwill. It has been received and welcomed by countless millions of people, of different faiths and none. Through your appeal, we have recognised not only the damage we have done and which we continue to afflict on our common home but also the urgent need to repair and protect the wonders of our world, with its biodiversity and the complexity of creation of which we are guardians.

“In the Greater Manchester area, we are blessed to have a cosmopolitan and diverse community. That community is represented here by faith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, by civic leaders and environmentalists, and we ask your encouragement and blessing for our commitment to work together to help all members of our diverse faiths to understand the catastrophe which faces our world and to make changes to our daily lives and routines. We cannot leave this complex problem simply to politicians or industry. As you have so wisely said ‘each and every one of us has a part to play’ in confronting this dilemma.”

Also in attendance was Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, The Lord Mayor of Manchester Donna Ludford, Bishop of Manchester David Walker, Gorton MP Mohammed Afzal Kahn, and Chair of the Manchester Climate Change Partnership, Mike Wilton.

Representatives from the Sikh and Hindu communities also joined the delegation, as well as Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen, from the Manchester Reform Synagogue, and city-centre Methodist Minister Rev’d Ian Rutherford.

The audience provided the cross-faith group with a rare opportunity to receive guidance and support from the Holy Father, as they discussed how faith can provide the foundation for a future of sustainability and fraternity, whilst learning more about how the principles set out in Laudato Si’ could guide our community in making this future a reality.

During his address, the Holy Father said:

“Your united witness is particularly eloquent, since the history of your city is closely linked to the industrial revolution, with its legacy of immense technical and economic progress, together with an admittedly negative impact on the human and natural environment. It has become increasingly evident, in fact, that our present commitment to safeguarding God’s gift of creation must be part of a broader effort to promote an integral ecology that respects both the dignity and value of each human person and acknowledges the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the poor. We need, in a word, to acknowledge that the environmental and social crisis of our time are not two separate crises but one (cf. Laudato Si’, 139). Certainly, this demands the creation of new and far-sighted economic models. Yet it also requires a determination to overcome the “throwaway” culture of waste generated by present-day consumerism and by a globalized indifference that inhibits efforts to address these human and social problems in the light of the common good.

“Dear friends, your group is distinguished by its common witness to the intrinsically moral and religious dimension of our duty to protect the environment as a God-given gift calling for our responsible stewardship. Within your communities, and guided by the wisdom of your various traditions, you play an important role in contributing to a much-needed “ecological conversion” grounded in the values of respect for nature, sobriety, human solidarity and concern for the future of our societies. An essential aspect of this contribution is your commitment, as men and women of faith, to forming the minds and hearts of the young, and seconding their demand for a change of course and for farsighted policies that have as their goal a sustainable and integral human development.”

Pope Francis was then presented with honey made from both Salford and Manchester Cathedrals, along with a booklet detailing the joint commitments of the faith leaders, which included:

  • Supporting the use of renewable technology and accelerating the decarbonisation of our places of worship
  • Using our land to help heal nature and increase biodiversity
  • Encouraging our communities to engage in proactive transformational behavioural change

The football-loving Pope was then delighted to receive an extra special Manchester gift: a Manchester United football shirt signed by Argentinian defender Lisandro Martinez.

In addition to this rare audience, the group also attended several other valuable meetings, including with Caritas International, the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, and Cardinal Turkson to further investigate different opportunities of working together.

This fruitful visit laid the foundations of a compelling partnership that offers our diocese and the Greater Manchester community a future of hope, working together in protection of our common home and our brothers and sisters here and around the world.


Full Address given by Bishop John Arnold to Pope Francis

Full message from Pope Francis to interfaith leaders from Manchester in response to their Climate change pledge.