Pope Francis addressed the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
By Michael O’Loughlin National reporter September 25, 2015
NEW YORK — Pope Francis brought his campaign for action on climate change to the United Nations Friday, proclaiming the existence of a “right of the environment” and pleading with countries to stop abusing it.
In remarks to the largest gathering of world leaders in UN history — close to 200 prime ministers, presidents, and potentates — the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity” that causes untold suffering for the poor who “are cast off by society.” But the environment was hardly Francis’ only focus: In a wide-ranging speech, he urged action on drug trafficking, armed conflict, terrorism, education, inequality, and corruption — reminding the UN General Assembly that “solemn commitments” without follow-through could ultimately do more harm than good. Francis is the fourth pope to address the UN (John Paul II visited twice), and he used the opportunity to push his pro-environment message, framing the issue in moral terms and citing his climate change encyclical, Laudato Si’. He was clear that in his mind, environmental protections include an “absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions.”