LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Scotland’s bishops say they would “warmly welcome” Pope Francis if he visited Glasgow later this year for a major UN climate summit.
According to an unsourced report last week in The Times, a London-based newspaper, discussions are taking place “at the highest level” in the Vatican for a papal trip to the Scottish city for the COP26, which takes place Nov. 1-12.
The conference was originally meant to take place in 2020, marking the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris climate agreement, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Francis had released his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’ in part to make the case for greater protections for the environment to world leaders ahead of that UN meeting.
If Francis made the trip, it would be the third papal visit to the UK, after Pope St. John Paul II toured the country in 1982 and Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010. Both pontiffs made Scotland part of their itinerary.
The Times noted that Sally Axworthy, the UK’s ambassador to the Holy See, met privately with Francis last month.
“Everyone who is a member of the UN framework convention on climate change can attend and that includes the Holy See, which has observer status,” she told the newspaper. “It is perfectly possible they will attend but it is up to them to decide the level of representation.”
Because it is a UN conference, Francis would not require an invitation from the British government before attending the event.
The London-based newspaper also claimed the Scottish bishops’ conference had been told by the Vatican to make preparations for the papal visit.
However, the bishops would not confirm the report.
“While the decision on whether or not the Pope attends the UN climate summit in Glasgow will be a matter entirely for the Holy See, Scotland’s Catholic bishops would warmly welcome his presence, however briefly, in this country,” the bishops said.
The archbishop of Glasgow and president of the Scottish bishops’ conference, Philip Tartaglia, died on January 13 after being diagnosed with COVID-19. His successor — who would be expected to coordinate any papal visit — has yet to be appointed.
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