Catholics in action for COP24

December 18, 2018

Catholics raised a prophetic voice for climate justice at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. As world leaders engaged in negotiations at the climate summit, faith communities gathered in prayer, dialogue, and action to explore solutions to the climate crisis.

Press conference with head of the Holy See delegation to COP24

Catholic action was widely covered in the press, including in mainstream international outlets (New York Times, Earther) and Catholic outlets (Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter), in Polish outlets (Gosc, deon), and on social media (Leondardo DiCaprio, Patricia Espinosa).

Here are five ways Catholics made a difference at COP24.

Catholics spell “1.5 degrees” with candles in Katowice

1: A country unites in prayer

Poland’s bishops sent a letter to the pastors of all 10,000 parishes in the country, asking them to pray for the talks. They strengthened their invitation with a mailing of 2 million prayer cards to be used during mass on the two Sundays of the COP. This video shows people from around the country reading the prayer. (This initiative was co-organized by GCCM, Caritas Poland, and the Episcopal Conference of Poland, with support from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development.)

Pilgrims with archbishop

2: Pilgrims walk for climate justice

  • Pilgrims walked The Climate Pilgrimage, a journey of 1,500 kilometers from the Vatican to Katowice in order to call for climate justice. (Co-organized by GCCM, Greenpeace, and others.)
  • The pilgrims were led by survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, a superstorm that killed thousands of people and was linked to climate change. They were warmly welcomed in Katowice, where they gave prayer ribbons collected along their journey to UNFCC head Patricia Espinosa, appeared on Poland’s largest morning talk show, and participated in wide-ranging interviews and speaking engagements.

speakers at conference on science and faith

3: The church embraces science and calls for urgent action

  • Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State for the Holy, helped open COP24 with a speech calling negotiators “to make every effort to implement a responsible, unprecedented collective response.”
  • While some nations debated whether to welcome a report on climate science, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Polish Academy of Sciences held a day-long conference on top learnings in the field and how Catholic communities can take action. The primate of Poland, a Nobel-prize winning scientist, and the head of the UNFCCC were among the speakers.
  • At a crucial point in the second week of the negotiations, the head of the Holy See’s delegation to the summit, Mons. Bruno-Marie Duffé, led a press conference to call for urgency and solidarity. Earlier in the talks, GCCM Executive Director Tomás Insua spoke at a press conference about faith leaders’ call for ambition.

Catholics learn from each other on the sidelines of the COP

4: Faith communities take action

  • In the run-up to the COP, Poland’s parishes and religious communities embraced care for creation. This beautiful video from a Polish Franciscan community connects the climate discussions to our faith.
  • Katowice’s Archbishop Skworc held an international mass on the sidelines of the COP to share Catholic teaching on climate change. During the mass he blessed members of The Climate Pilgrimage, and after the mass he distributed copies of a pastoral letter on creation care.
  • Franciscans hosted a panel discussion with climate activists, faith leaders, and a coal miner to explore a just transition to renewable energy.

Catholic event in Franciscan friary

5: Dialogue advances during the summit

  • People from around Poland came together for a grassroots event that was live-streamed by, one of the country’s largest media outlets (the event was co-organized by GCCM and Caritas Poland).
  • The following day, the international community united in an event to share stories of witness from the front lines of the climate crisis and make personal commitments to change (the event was co-organized by GCCM, the Archdiocese of Katowice, Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Poland, CIDSE, Franciscans International).

Making connections for climate justice

COP24 was an important venue for crucial climate negotiations between nations, but it also offered a chance for faith communities to build on the growing global network of action for climate justice. The realities of the climate crisis are daunting, but these connections of faith and solidarity offer a sense of hope. Let us continue to build on this hope, working together as sisters and brothers, caretakers of our common home.