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Pope Francis hopes Trump reconsiders DACA decision

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBIA — Politicians who call themselves pro-life must be pro-family and not enact policies that divide families and rob young people of a future, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Cartagena, Colombia, to Rome Sept. 10. Earlier, the pope cut and bruised his face on the popemobile window when he was greeting people. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Flying from Colombia back to Rome late Sept. 10, Pope Francis was asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed some 800,000 young people brought to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country, working or going to school.

Trump announced Sept. 5 that he was phasing out the program; his decision was strongly criticized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis said he had heard of Trump’s decision, but had not had time to study the details of the issue. However, he said, “uprooting young people from their families is not something that will bear fruit.”

“This law, which I think comes not from the legislature, but from the executive (branch), if that’s right, I’m not sure, I hope he rethinks it a bit,” the pope said, “because I’ve heard the president of the United States speak; he presents himself as a man who is pro-life, a good pro-lifer.

“If he is a good pro-lifer, he understands that the family is the cradle of life and its unity must be defended,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said people must be very careful not to dash the hopes and dreams of young people or make them feel “a bit exploited,” because the results can be disastrous, leading some to turn to drugs or even suicide.

Pope Francis spent only about 35 minutes answering journalists’ questions and commenting on his five-day trip to Colombia. After he had answered eight questions, Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told the pope it was time to sit down because the plane was approaching an area of turbulence.

The pope went to the journalists’ section of the plane still wearing a small bandage on his left eyebrow and sporting a large bump, which had turned black and blue, on his cheek. Rather than joking with reporters, he told them that he had been reaching out of the popemobile to greet people and turned. “I didn’t see the glass.”

While his trip back to Rome did not have to change flight plans like the flight to Colombia Sept. 6 did because of Hurricane Irma, Pope Francis was asked about the apparently increasing intensity of hurricanes and other storms and what he thinks of political leaders who doubt climate change is real.

“Anyone who denies this must go to the scientists and ask,” he said. “They speak very clearly. Scientists are precise.”

Pope Francis said he read a report citing a university study that asserted humanity has only three years to reduce the pace of climate change before it’s too late. “I don’t know if three years is right or not, but if we don’t turn back, we’ll go down, that’s true.”

“Climate change, you can see the effects,
Pope Francis said. “And the scientists have told us clearly what the paths to follow are.”

Everyone has a moral responsibility to act, he said. “And we must take it seriously.”

“It’s not something to play with,” the pope said. “It’s very serious.”

Politicians who doubt climate change is real or that human activity contributes to it should speak to the scientists and “then decide. And history will judge their decisions.”

Asked why he thinks governments have been so slow to act, Pope Francis said he thinks it’s partly because, as the Old Testament says, “”Man is stupid, a stubborn one who does not see.”

But the other reason, he said, is almost always money.

Talking about his five-day stay in Colombia, Pope Francis said he was “really moved by the joy, the tenderness” and the expressiveness of the people. In the end, they are the ones who will determine Pwhether Colombia truly has peace after 52 years of civil war.

Politicians and diplomats can do all the right things to negotiate peace deals, he said, but if the nation’s people aren’t on board, peace will not be lasting. In Colombia, he said, the people have a clear desire to live in peace.

“What struck me most about the Colombian people,” he said, was watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fathers and mothers along the roads he traveled, and they would lift their children high so the pope would see and bless them.

What they were doing, he said, was saying, “This is my treasure. This is my hope. This is my future. I believe in this.”

The parents’ behavior with their little ones, he said, “is a symbol of hope, of a future.”

     

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

       

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Amid climate worries are ‘human ecology’ issues, such as 58,000 homeless in L.A., archbishop says

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LOS ANGELES — As reaction swirled around President Donald Trump’s June 1 decision to withdraw the country from the Paris climate accord, Los Angeles received a report on “the dramatic increase in the numbers of our brothers and sisters who are homeless,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez. Read more »

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Bishops urge Trump to honor Paris climate pact to protect the planet

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WASHINGTON – The United States has an obligation to honor the Paris climate agreement to protect “our people and our planet” and “mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “is on record supporting prudent action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, said in a June 1 statement. Read more »

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Vatican official hopes Trump will change his climate and immigration policies

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican hopes that U.S. bishops and others will continue to raise their voices in defense of the obligation to fight climate change and, in time, can persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to change his position, a top Vatican official said.

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, is seen in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told a group of reporters March 30 that there is concern at the Vatican over Trump’s policies, including on the environment.

Trump’s position on immigration and his efforts to roll back U.S. commitments on environmental regulations are “a challenge for us,” said the cardinal, whose office works on both questions and is charged with assisting bishops around the world as they promote Catholic social teaching.

Still, he said, “we are full of hope that things can change.”

The first sign of hope, he said, is the growing number of “dissenting voices,” who are calling attention to the scientific facts surrounding climate change and the ethical obligation to act to protect the environment for current and future generations.

“This, for us, is a sign that little by little, other positions and political voices will emerge, and so we hope that Trump himself will reconsider some of his decisions,” the cardinal said.

“Various American bishops have already spoken about the president’s position, and this could have an influence,” he said. Perhaps, Trump will come to see that not all the promises he made in the campaign would be good for the country, he added.

A change in position is not impossible, Cardinal Turkson said. “There is another superpower, China, that is rethinking its position” and has allocated funds for programs to reduce dangerous emissions. “One hopes it is not only because it is a country with ever more smog and pollution.”

The cardinal’s remarks came a day after the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said Trump’s executive order calling for a review of the Clean Power Plan jeopardizes environmental protections and moves the country away from a national carbon standard to help meet domestic and international goals to ease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the committee, said in a statement March 29 the order fails to offer a “sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation.”

Bishop Dewane suggested that an integral approach involving various components of U.S. society can reduce power plant emissions and still encourage economic growth and protect the environment.

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Populist demagoguery in the world fuels rejection of migrants, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Indifference, fueled by populist rhetoric in today’s world, fans the flames of rejection that threaten the rights and dignity of migrants, Pope Francis said.

Refugees from Eritrea tell Pope Francis about their journey to safety during a meeting Feb. 21 at the Vatican with participants in the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace. (CNS LíOsservatore Romano)

Refugees from Eritrea tell Pope Francis about their journey to safety during a meeting Feb. 21 at the Vatican with participants in the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace. (CNS LíOsservatore Romano)

Refugees escaping persecution, violence and poverty are often shunned and deemed as “unworthy of our attention, a rival or someone to be bent to our will,” the pope told participants of the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace.

“Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist demagoguery, what is needed is a change of attitude to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors,” he said Feb. 21.

The Feb. 21-22 conference, “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action,” was organized by the Scalabrini International Migration Network and sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

According to the forum’s website, the conference focused on refugee crisis management while aiming to “influence migration policies and practices in Europe.”

In his speech, the pope said millions of people are being forced to flee their homelands due to “conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions.”

To confront this challenge, he said, the church and civil society must have a “shared response” of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.

Providing access to “secure humanitarian channels,” legal paths to safety, is crucial in helping people who are “fleeing conflicts and terrible persecutions,” but are often met with rejection and indifference.

“A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter,” the pope said.

Citing Pope Benedict XVI, the pope said the need to defend the “inalienable rights” of exiled and exploited men and women is a duty “from which no one can be exempted.”

“Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant,” the pope said.

Protection, he added, can only be guaranteed by ensuring “necessary conditions,” such as fair access to fundamental goods, that offer “the possibility of choice and growth.”

Pope Francis also highlighted the need for integration, which is a “two-way process rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness.”

Integration is different from assimilation, he said, warning that superimposing one culture over another has the “insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettos.”

At the same time, he said, migrants are “duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country” while “respecting above all its laws.”

Helping migrants, exiles and refugees “is today a responsibility, a duty we have toward our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, civility and solidarity,” the pope said.

Responding to the migration crisis also involves addressing the root causes of the situations that force people to flee, he said, pointing particularly to “unacceptable economic inequality,” which violates “the principle of the universal destination of the earth’s goods.”

“One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources,” Pope Francis said. “We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs.”

Recognizing each person as a member of the same human family, brother or sister created in God’s image, is key to ensuring a proper response to the crisis, the pope insisted. “Fraternity is the most civil way of relating to the reality of another person, which does not threaten us but engages, reaffirms and enriches our individual identity.”

Pope Francis called for “a change of attitude” in understanding the needs of migrants and refugees, a change that moves away from fear and indifference to a “culture of encounter” that builds “a better, more just and fraternal world.”

“The duty of solidarity is to the counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable,” he said.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Catholic activists, pope say more work needed after U.N. climate change pact

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PARIS — German Msgr. Josef Sayer prayed over a crowd of environmental activists at Saint-Merri Catholic Church, where they had joined for Mass after two weeks of intense lobbying in and around the U.N. climate change conference.

Environmentalists hold a banner that reads, "Standing and Determined for the Climate," during a Dec. 12 protest near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the U.N. climate conference ended. (CNS photo/Mal Langsdon, Reuters)

Environmentalists hold a banner that reads, “Standing and Determined for the Climate,” during a Dec. 12 protest near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the U.N. climate conference ended. (CNS photo/Mal Langsdon, Reuters)

“We have to start and struggle again, and it is a harsh way in front of us,” Msgr. Sayer told Catholic News Service minutes after the Mass at the 16th-century church Dec. 13, the day after the climate conference produced its final agreement.

He and other Catholic groups varied as to which of their summit ambitions had been met and which had not, but all of them contended that their struggle to save the environment was just beginning, and they called for further mobilization.

The same day, after reciting the Angelus at the Vatican, Pope Francis said the agreement required a “concerted commitment” to continue forward.

“In the hopes that it guarantees particular attention to the most vulnerable populations, I urge the entire international community to continue the path undertaken with care, in a sign of solidarity that becomes ever more constructive,” Pope Francis said.

The conference in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget ran one day longer than expected in an effort to produce an agreement. Catholic activists had lobbied for the inclusion of human rights protections and lowering the threshold for the earth’s temperatures to be more in line with scientific research. They also advocated for adequate financing for poor countries to adapt to cleaner energy, and the phasing out of fossil fuels.

Bernd Nilles, who served on the Vatican’s official delegation to the climate change conference, said because the issue of human rights for indigenous and other vulnerable people had made it only to the preamble and not in the new accord’s binding body, some nations might say ‘“Yes, we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so we build major hydroelectric, or major dams and we move all these people.’”

“It will give us a lot of headaches in the future because governments now can take climate action by ignoring the local population,” Nilles told Catholic News Service at Saint-Merry.

Genevieve Talbot, who lobbied at the Paris talks for the Canadian Catholic organization Development and Peace, concurred that “the human rights aspect should have been included in the operative part” of the text, as well as the issue of food security.

“In fact in the operative part, we no longer mention food security, but rather food production, which is quite worrisome: It means that in order to ensure food security, (greenhouse gas) emission can increase,” Talbot told CNS in an email from Montreal, where she returned after the conference.

Michel Roy, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, said that despite the new accord’s “essential connection between climate change, poverty eradication and equitable access to sustainable development,” it was “regrettable that human rights are not at the core,” adding “we should avoid vested interests prevailing over the common good.”

On another key issue, what the highest threshold should be for the earth’s heat, some Catholic groups heralded what they saw as a major feat. Throughout the two-week conference, the groups had referred to scientific studies showing that limiting global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius would benefit millions of the world’s people by reducing adverse weather disasters, such as floods, drought, typhoons and rising sea levels.

The accord’s “long-term goal is well below 2 degrees Celsius, which is a great step,” said Talbot.

Talbot and Chloe Schwabe, who lobbied for Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns at the U.N. conference, lamented a lack of guidelines or enforcement mechanisms in the agreement to ensure nations would comply with the new temperature thresholds laid out only as aspirations in the new agreement.

“The 1.5 Celsius degree temperature rise target will only help achieving climate justice if all countries do their fair share,” said Talbot.

“Ensuring there is enough ambition to stay below 2 degrees and meet the overall 1.5 goal will be a challenge,” Schwabe added.

Another long-term goal of Catholic and other activists in Paris, to wean the world off fossil fuels, whose extraction and burning are responsible for the global warming that the summit ostensibly aimed to curb, was not met, said Nilles, secretary-general of the international Catholic development coalition CIDSE, an alliance Catholic development agencies based in Brussels,.

The final text of the accord set no clear limits on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels, said Nilles, something he blamed on several big industry countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United States.

“I was a member of the Holy See delegation, so I could clearly see how Saudi Arabia and others were working really hard to undermine a strong agreement because by phasing out fossil fuels, we take their blood line away,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that the financing measures that the accord laid out to help developing nations adopt cleaner sources of energy were “built on hope that industries and companies will invest,” and not enough on public funds.

“So it is not that we will take public money in our hands and we will help these vulnerable countries,” he said.

Schwabe agreed that the climate accord’s lack of public financing for adaptation to alternative fuels was a problem.

“Adaptation is already necessary for some countries and vulnerable communities,” she said. “We must make sure there is enough money in place to assist communities on the front lines of climate change to adapt to the impacts of climate change we already witness.”

In light of the Paris agreement, and ahead of U.N. climate talks scheduled for next year in Morocco, Catholic groups said further mobilization on a widespread scale would continue to be vital.

“What we have on the table is not sufficient,” Msgr. Sayer said of the new climate accord in general.

“We have to start immediately to put all our forces together from the civil society, from the politicians, from the officials in the companies and also from the shareholders — they have not to think about the short-term profit, but about the long term,” he said. He noted with a smile that he was headed to Germany “to further advocate for climate justice at home.”

“Everybody here is super tired and yeah, the team deserves to have a break,” added Nilles, who said he had spent the day after the accord was announced demonstrating for climate justice along with thousands of other activists on Paris streets.

“But then we must come with renewed energy, to continue mobilizing for climate justice. This is not the end,” he said.

By James Martone  Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

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Bishops from around the world plead for climate change action

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The presidents of the U.S. and Canadian bishops’ conferences joined leaders of the regional bishops’ conferences of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Europe in signing an appeal for government leaders to reach a “fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement” at a summit in Paris.

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, signed the appeal Oct. 26 at the beginning of a joint news conference at the Vatican.

A boathouse sits at the end of a small pier at Lake Ammersee in Germany Oct. 24. The presidents of the U.S. and Canadian bishops' conferences joined leaders of the regional bishops' conferences of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Europe in signing an appeal for government leaders to reach a "fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement" at a summit in Paris. (CNS photo/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand, EPA)

A boathouse sits at the end of a small pier at Lake Ammersee in Germany Oct. 24. The presidents of the U.S. and Canadian bishops’ conferences joined leaders of the regional bishops’ conferences of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Europe in signing an appeal for government leaders to reach a “fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement” at a summit in Paris. (CNS photo/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand, EPA)

The appeal, Cardinal Gracias said, was a response to Pope Francis’ letter on the environment and an expression of “the anxiety of all the people, all the churches all over the world” regarding how, “unless we are careful and prudent, we are heading for disaster.”

The appeal is addressed to negotiators preparing for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris Nov. 30-Dec. 11. The bishops called for “courageous and imaginative political leadership” and for legal frameworks that “clearly establish boundaries and ensure the protection of the ecosystem.”

The bishops also asked governments to recognize the “ethical and moral dimensions of climate change,” to recognize that the climate and the atmosphere are common goods belonging to all, to set a strong limit on global temperature increase and to promote new models of development and lifestyles that are “climate compatible.”

The appeal calls for decisions that place people above profits, that involve the poor in decision making, that protect people’s access to water and to land, are particularly mindful of vulnerable communities and are specific in commitments to finance mitigation efforts.

Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, president of the Latin American bishops’ council, spoke of the “suffering” Amazon basin and the key role it plays in the survival of South America and the world. The Latin American bishops, he said, want an end to pollution, to the destruction of the forests and the disappearance of biodiversity, but they also want justice for their people, the majority of whom do not benefit from the exploitation of resources taken from their countries.

Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, president of the Federation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Oceania, told reporters, “We come from islands, and our life is very much at risk.”

“We belong to those most vulnerable groups impacted by rising sea levels,” he said. Many communities, particularly on Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Carteret Islands, already are experiencing the disappearance of land used for subsistence farming or seeing their agricultural land rendered unusable by the infiltration of salt water.

Climate change, the archbishop said, already is leading to the phenomenon of climate refugees.

The appeal said that most people, whether or not they believe in God, recognize the planet as “a shared inheritance, who(se) fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the creator, since God created the world for everyone.”

Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, confirmed that the U.S. bishops asked that a specific temperature target not be in the appeal. Others agreed, he said.

“We’re pastors and we’re not scientists,” the archbishop said. The specific temperature target for reversing the impact of climate change is something for scientists to decide, but the need to act is a moral issue, and the bishops are competent to speak to that, he said.

People in the United States are starting to understand how important action is, Archbishop Wenski said. It has been slow because “we live in a little bit of a cocoon sometimes, and if it doesn’t affect us immediately, we don’t react.”

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, represented the Canadian bishops at the presentation. His province, Alberta, is “fossil fuel central,” he said, yet people in Alberta, like in the rest of Canada, recognize that something must be done.

“Nobody wants the future placed in jeopardy because of this, and everyone understands intergenerational responsibility,” he said.

“Everybody knows that we have to move away from fossil fuels,” he said, but the big question is how. “There are some great minds out there working on finding the new technologies” that will provide jobs and energy without harming the environment.

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Pope: Farmers must care for an earth more vulnerable to climate change

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Farmers must find a delicate balance between reaping the precious gifts of the earth and protecting them for future generations, especially given the threat of climate change, Pope Francis said.

At the same time, the ongoing problem of poverty and hunger affecting such
“a vast part” of the world demands that today’s “system of food production and distribution be rethought,” he told delegates to a national conference of Italians who own or work on farms, ranches and commercial fisheries.

A freshly plowed field is seen on a farm in St. Leo, Kansas. (CNS file)

A freshly plowed field is seen on a farm in St. Leo, Kansas. (CNS file)

Pope Francis met Jan 31 with members of Coldiretti, an Italian trade group that promotes agricultural education and lobbies to protect agricultural land and promote farm-friendly policies.

Cultivating and caring for the earth go hand in hand, he said, but “every farmer knows well how much it has become more difficult to cultivate the earth at a time that accelerated climate change and extreme weather events are ever more widespread,” he said.

He said the question was “how to continue to produce good food for everyone’s life when the stability of the climate is at risk” and when the air, water and the soil become polluted.

Nations need to realize how urgent it is to collaborate and take “prompt action” to take care of creation, he said.

The Second Vatican Council reminded people about the “universal destination of earthly goods, but in reality, the dominant economic system excludes many from their just fruition,” he said.

The precedence given to “the rules of the market,” the culture of waste and other factors contribute to the suffering and misery of many families, he said.

The major challenge today is to promote “low impact agriculture” so that “our cultivating the earth is also caring for it at the same time,” which is the only way future generations will be able to continue to live, he said.

Farming is a “real and true vocation” that should receive the kind of recognition and respect it deserves, he said, including “concrete political and economic choices.” Too many obstacles that penalize farmers often make farming seem not so appealing to younger generations, he added.

The pope asked that people rediscover “love for the earth like a mother, as St. Francis (of Assisi) would say.”

 

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Pope urges world pact on climate change

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI urged international leaders to reach a credible agreement on climate change, keeping in mind the needs of the poor and of future generations.

The pope made the remarks at his noon blessing at the Vatican Nov. 27, the day before officials from 194 countries were to begin meeting in Durban, South Africa, to discuss the next steps in reducing greenhouse gases and stopping global temperatures from rising.

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