Earlier this year in April, Pope Francis invited over 60 scientists, political, and religious leaders to gather at the Vatican for a one-day conference called “The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.”
Then in June, the Pope released a 184-page encyclical on ecology, a highly anticipated papal teaching on moral obligations regarding climate change and the environment.
Now, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church declared September 1 “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” in an annual effort to raise more awareness for the fight against climate chance.
In a letter to Vatican cardinals on Monday, Pope Francis said that, “I wish to inform you that I have decided to institute in the Catholic Church the ‘World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation’ which, beginning this year, is to be celebrated on 1 September… As Christians we wish to contribute to resolving the ecological crisis which humanity is presently experiencing.”
Francis said this would give the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics around the world “a fitting opportunity to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, to thank God for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care.”
He also noted that he was inspired by the Orthodox Christian Church, which has been holding a prayer day for the environment every September 1 since the 1980s.
Says Francis, “The celebration of this Day, on the same date as the Orthodox Church, will be a valuable opportunity to bear witness to our growing communion with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. We live at a time when all Christians are faced with the same decisive challenges, to which we must respond together, in order to be more credible and effective.”
The Pope added that, “It is my hope that this Day will in some way also involve other Churches and ecclesial Communities, and be celebrated in union with similar initiatives of the World Council of Churches.”
In addition to inspiring other church communities, Francis’ goal is to put pressure on policymakers at the 2015 United Nation Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year in December to reach a global agreement on carbon emission reduction and combatting climate change.