A Vatican cardinal has praised climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s “coherence with the Church’s teaching” on the care of the environment.

Driving the news

The 16-year-old Thunberg’s “protest and her witness brings attention to the great need to be coherent in our care for the environment and also for the people who live on earth”, Cardinal Peter Turkson told reporters December 12 in the Vatican for the presentation of Pope Francis’s message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, according to Crux.

The Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development described the young Swede as “a great witness to what the Church teaches on the care of the environment and the care of the person”.

“What is her objective? Skipping school for a future, a future that can’t be guaranteed because there is no care for the environment”, the cardinal recalled.

Turkson added that he might not call Thunberg precisely a “model” of the “ecological conversion” which Pope Francis tirelessly insists the world is in need of.

But the cardinal said that the young activist Thunberg and the Church both agree that “attention to the poor and society also coincide with care for the environment, the common home”.

Go deeper

In his presentation, Turkson also called on Christians to “overcome” the resistance to see the connection between the life of faith and care for the environment.

That connection actually goes back to the Old Testament, the cardinal pointed out, where the prophets insisted that “fidelity to God’s covenant implied care for the weakest members of society and for creation, the environment”.

Turkson lamented the scarcity of Catholics “who really adore[] the Lord and transpose[] care for the environment and for others”.

Apart from, perhaps, Pope Francis himself – history’s ‘greenest’ pontiff – who just last week, in a message to the COP25 climate summit in Madrid, warned that global warming is a “challenge of civilization” and deplored “the ‘human face’ of climate emergencies”.

Why it matters

In that same message, Francis praised young people like Thunberg for their “heightened sensitivity” to the “complex problems” that arise from the “emergency” of climate change.

And indeed, the Pope and the Swede have much in common in their concern for the environment, even being able to share that worry in person in a face-to-face meeting in April this year.

“Continue, continue, go on, go ahead”, Francis told Thunberg on that occasion, to which Thunberg replied: “Thank you for standing up for the climate, for speaking the truth. It means a lot”.

For the record

Thunberg, currently in Madrid for the COP summit, was December 11 named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’, the youngest recipient ever to receive that honour.

Thunberg “has succeeded in turning vague anxieties about the planet into a worldwide movement calling for global change”, the magazine said in its acclamation of the activist.

For her part, Thunberg gave a speech in the Spanish capital in which she blasted rich nations for not cutting emissions sooner, and for their lack of solidarity.

“Rich countries need to do their fair share and get down to real zero emissions much faster and then help poorer countries do the same so people in less fortunate parts of the world can help raise their living standards”, the Swede decried.

“Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about.

“But instead it has turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition. Countries are finding clever ways around having to take action”, Thunberg denounced.

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