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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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Commentary: Choosing wisely or foolishly at global climate conference

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“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” warns Pope Francis. Read more »

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Bishop disturbed by calls to end resettlement of Syrian refugees in U.S.

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BALTIMORE — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said he was disturbed by calls from federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves, violence like we have witnessed in Paris,” said Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the migration committee. “They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”

Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, June 10. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, says the United States should welcome Syrian refugees and work for peace. (CNS photo/Sedat/Suna, EPA)

Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, June 10. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, says the United States should welcome Syrian refugees and work for peace. (CNS photo/Sedat/Suna, EPA)

In a statement issued Nov. 17 during the bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore, Bishop Elizondo offered condolences to the French people, especially families of the victims of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris in which at least 129 people were killed and hundreds were injured. He said he supported “all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again, both in France and around the world.”

But addressing calls from some governors and federal officials, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to pause or halt refugee resettlement until the U.S. can ensure the safety of its citizens, Bishop Elizondo said refugees “must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States, more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.”

He urged public officials to work together to end the conflict in Syria so the country’s nearly 4 million refugees can return home.

“Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive. As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East,” he said.

In a separate statement, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, said although refugees’ backgrounds must be checked carefully, “it would be wrong for our nation and our state to refuse to accept refugees simply because they are Syrian or Muslim.”

“Too often in the past, however, our nation has erroneously targeted individuals as dangerous simply because of their nationality or religion,” the bishop said. “In these turbulent times, it is important that prudence not be replaced by hysteria.”

The U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency, Catholic Relief Services, emphasized how carefully refugees are vetted in a five-point post called “5 Reasons Not to Punish Syrian Refugees for the Paris Attacks.”

“The refugees are not ISIS,” it said, referring to them as allies in the fight against Islamic State.

The column, by Michael Hill, CRS senior writer, noted: “Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, it’s estimated that more than 250,000 people have died. Countless homes and places of work have been destroyed. Refugees arriving in Europe have recounted in horrific detail the atrocities they witnessed within their homeland. As one mother told us, ‘You wouldn’t put a child on this boat unless it’s safer than your home. Imagine this desperation. We have nothing to lose.’

“These people should not be blamed for the actions of an extremist fringe group like ISIS. If anything, the Paris attacks should increase our sympathy for their plight,” the column said.

“While we recognize legitimate security concerns, our leaders and politicians must understand that refusing to welcome the stranger and failing to work together toward a solution to this refugee crisis only aids our enemies,” Hill wrote. “We understand the fear many American people, including members of our Catholic population, have that the senseless violence perpetrated in Paris, Beirut, and so many other places will find its way here. But as followers of Christ, we cannot allow our attitudes and our actions to be overtaken by this fear.”

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Nothing can justify barbaric terrorist attacks in Paris, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy,” Pope Francis said Nov. 15, speaking about the terrorist attacks on Paris.

“Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

A police car is seen outside Notre Dame Cathedral as people leave after a Mass celebrated by Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois in Paris Nov. 15 to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks. Coordinated attacks the evening of Nov. 13 claimed the lives of 129 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A police car is seen outside Notre Dame Cathedral as people leave after a Mass celebrated by Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois in Paris Nov. 15 to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks. Coordinated attacks the evening of Nov. 13 claimed the lives of 129 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The attacks in Paris Nov. 13, attacks the French government said were carried out by three teams of Islamic State terrorists, caused the deaths of at least 129 people and left more than 350 injured, many of them critically. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a soccer stadium, gunmen attacked customers at cafes and restaurants and a team of terrorists gunned down dozens of people at a concert.

The attacks, Pope Francis said, were an “unspeakable affront to the dignity of the human person.”

“The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy,” he said.

Pope Francis asked the thousands of people who gathered at St. Peter’s for the Sunday midday prayer to observe a moment of silence and to join him in reciting a Hail Mary.

“May the Virgin Mary, mother of mercy, give rise in the hearts of everyone thoughts of wisdom and proposals for peace,” he said. “We ask her to protect and watch over the dear French nation, the first daughter of the church, over Europe and the whole world.”

“Let us entrust to the mercy of God the innocent victims of this tragedy,” the pope said.

Speaking Nov. 14, the day after the terrorist attacks, Pope Francis had told the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference, “I am shaken and pained.”

“I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this,” the pope said. “That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”

“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”

French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said. “Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”

With some 1,500 inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral and hundreds more gathered outside Nov. 15, Cardinal Vingt-Trois celebrated a special Mass in memory of the victims. As the cathedral bells tolled a death knell, police patrolled the square in front of the cathedral and checked people as they entered the Paris landmark for Mass.

The cardinal told the assembly, which included government officials and ambassadors from a variety of nations, that the Mass was intended as a sign of sharing the pain of the victims and of praying for them, their families, for Paris and for France.

“The savage killings this black Friday plunged entire families into despair, and this despair is all the more profound because there can be no rational explanation that would justify the indiscriminate execution of dozens of anonymous people,” the cardinal said.

The only Christian response, he said, is to be “messengers of hope in the heart of human suffering.”

The terrorists succeed if their actions shake Christians’ hope founded on faith in Christ and on a belief that all of history, including moments of suffering, is in God’s hands, he said.

The appropriate response to the “barbaric savagery” of the terrorists, he said, is “to demonstrate additional trust in our fellowmen and their dignity.”

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois, calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”

Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.

“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”

“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”

“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary,” Father Lombardi said. Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”

 

Contributing to this story was Paul Haring in Paris.

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Pope ‘shaken, pained and praying’ after terrorist attacks in Paris

November 14th, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “This is not human,” Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.

Pope Francis (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis (CNS file/Paul Haring)

As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks Nov. 13 on at least six different sites — inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants — Pope Francis spoke briefly Nov. 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference.

“I am shaken and pained,” the pope said. “I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”

“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”

French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims Nov. 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.

“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said. “Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”

Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.

“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”

“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”

“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary,” Father Lombardi said. Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”

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