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Pope on the Environment: Pontiff Urges Christians to Fight Climate Change

ROME — Pope Francis on Thursday urged Christians to embrace environmental causes and fight climate change as he launched another fierce attack on consumerism and greed.

"God gave us a bountiful garden, but we have turned it into a polluted wasteland of debris, desolation and filth," Francis said in a document released to coincide with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

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Thursday's call for concerted action came a year after the leader of the world's more than one billion Roman Catholics published the first papal document dedicated to the environment. In his latest rallying cry he said the defense of the environment should be added to the "seven works of mercy," which provide believers with guiding principles and duties they are meant to follow.

These include taking care of the hungry and sick, and teaching the ignorant. Six were spelled out in the New Testament; the seventh — burying the dead — was added in the Middle Ages.

Image: Pope Francis
Pope Francis salutes during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday at the Vatican. ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP - Getty Images

Born in Argentina, Francis is the first pope from a developing nation and has placed environmental causes at the heart of his papacy, denouncing what he sees as a throwaway consumer culture and rampant, market-driven economies.

"Economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short term and immediate financial or electoral gains," Francis said, suggesting more ambitious action might be needed to curb climate change.

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World leaders agreed in Paris last December to commit to limiting greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to stabilize rising temperatures, while the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in July the Earth was warming faster than expected and on track for its hottest year ever.

Francis welcomed the Paris accord, but urged voters everywhere to make sure their governments did not backtrack.

"It is up to citizens to insist that this happen, and indeed to advocate for even more ambitious goals," he said.

"May the works of mercy also include care for our common home," Francis said, adding that simple, daily gestures which broke with "the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness" would make a difference.