Image of Pope Francis addressing the interfaith delegation with Bishop John in shot

Bishop presents environment pledge to Pope Francis in interfaith visit

Thursday 20th April 2023

Bishop John led a rare interfaith visit to The Vatican this week to share with Pope Francis a cross-faith commitment to caring for our common home.

The delegation, which was jointly led by Bishop John and Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, included faith and civic leaders from across Greater Manchester, including Dean of Salford Cathedral, Canon Michael Jones, and our own diocesan Head of Environment, Dr Emma Gardner.

Bishop Joh, Canon Michael Jones and Dr Emma Gardner ahead of their audience with Pope Francis

Also including civic leaders Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester Mayor) and Lord Mayor of Manchester Donna Ludford, this cross-discipline delegation is the first of its kind, welcoming the likes of Bishop David Walker from the Diocese of Manchester, Reverend Ian Rutherford from Methodist Central Hall, representatives from Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim faiths, and the Chair of the Manchester Climate Change Partnership, Mike Wilton.

The visit has provided the opportunity for several valuable meetings, including with Caritas International, the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, and Cardinal Turkson, to further investigate ways in which faith communities can work together to live out our common call to care for creation and our brothers and sisters around the world.

An Audience with the Holy Father

The highlight of the visit took place today (Thursday) with an audience with the Holy Father himself.

In his address to the Pope, Bishop John reflected on the example Pope Francis has given to all faiths and none in shining a light on the climate emergency, saying: “Holy Father, we thank you for your leadership in alerting the world’s attention to the urgent dangers of climate change and the need for ecological conversion. Following statements of your predecessors, particular Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, your encyclical Laudato Si’ spoke not only to members of the Catholic Church but to all Christians and to all people of goodwill. It has been received and welcomed by countless millions of people, of different faiths and none. Through your appeal, we have recognised not only the damage we have done and which we continue to afflict on our common home but also the urgent need to repair and protect the wonders of our world, with its biodiversity and the complexity of creation of which we are guardians.

“In the Greater Manchester area, we are blessed to have a cosmopolitan and diverse community. That community is represented here by faith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu and Sikh faiths, by civic leaders and environmentalists, and we ask your encouragement and blessing for our commitment to work together to help all members of our diverse faiths to understand the catastrophe which faces our world and to make changes to our daily lives and routines. We cannot leave this complex problem simply to politicians or industry. As you have so wisely said “each and every one of us has a part to play” in confronting this dilemma.”

Please click here to read Bishop John’s full address.

Bishop John continued to present to Pope Francis some core pledges that each faith leader has committed to in order to help protect our planet and its people for future generations. These included:

  • Support the use of renewable technology and accelerate the decarbonisation of our places of worship;
  • Use our land to help heal nature and increase biodiversity;
  • Encourage our communities to engage in proactive transformational behavioural change.

Image of all interfaith and civic leaders listening to guidance from Pope Francis

“The environmental and social crises of our time are one”

In response, the Holy Father said: “Your united witness is particularly eloquent, since the history of your city is closely linked to the industrial revolution, with its legacy of immense technical and economic progress, together with an admittedly negative impact on the human and natural environment. It has become increasingly evident, in fact, that our present commitment to safeguarding God’s gift of creation must be part of a broader effort to promote an integral ecology that respects both the dignity and value of each human person and acknowledges the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the poor. We need, in a word, to acknowledge that the environmental and social crisis of our time are not two separate crises but one (cf. Laudato Si’, 139). Certainly, this demands the creation of new and far-sighted economic models. Yet it also requires a determination to overcome the “throwaway” culture of waste generated by present-day consumerism and by a globalized indifference that inhibits efforts to address these human and social problems in the light of the common good.

“Dear friends, your group is distinguished by its common witness to the intrinsically moral and religious dimension of our duty to protect the environment as a God-given gift calling for our responsible stewardship. Within your communities, and guided by the wisdom of your various traditions, you play an important role in contributing to a much-needed “ecological conversion” grounded in the values of respect for nature, sobriety, human solidarity and concern for the future of our societies. An essential aspect of this contribution is your commitment, as men and women of faith, to forming the minds and hearts of the young, and seconding their demand for a change of course and for farsighted policies that have as their goal a sustainable and integral human development.”

Please click here to read the full address from Pope Francis.

Pope Francis was then presented with honey made with bees from both Salford and Manchester Cathedral and a booklet detailing the joint commitments from the delegation that also contained the Diocesan Prayer for Our Common Home. The football-loving Pope was also delighted to receive a signed Manchester United shirt from Argentinian defender Lisandro Martinez.

Photo of civic leaders presenting the football-loving Pope with a signed Manchester United shirt.

A Future of Hope

After the audience, Bishop John reflected on the meeting with the Holy Father in the video below:

The delegation then recommitted to their pledges and agreed to produce action points that each faith leader could take to their communities at home.

The fruitful visit laid the foundations of a compelling partnership that offers our diocese and the Greater Manchester community a future of hope, working together in protection of our common home and our brothers and sisters here and around the world.

Greater Manchester faith and Civic Leaders in St Peter's Square

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