ROME — Actress Juliette Binoche and fellow French environmentalists received encouragement from Pope Francis at a private Vatican meeting Thursday where he told them people shouldn’t lose hope even when the condition of the planet can appear “catastrophic.”
The urgency for such commitment was made plain by the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis said.
“We understand to what point we are tied one to the other, inserted in a world whose future we share, and that maltreating it can’t help but bring grave consequences, not only environmental, but social and human,’’ the pontiff told his guests.
Binoche and the other activists work with the French Conference of Bishops on environmental themes, which were highlighted by Francis in a 2015 encyclical which exhorted all persons of good will to protect the Earth.
In 2018, Binoche was an author of a letter calling on politicians to act decisively and swiftly in tackling climate change.
Francis said he was heartened that consciences were being raised about the situation’s urgency, and he pledged that the Catholic Church he leads will fully commit to caring for humanity’s “common home.”
The Catholic Church “wants to act concretely where it’s possible, and wants above all to shape consciences with the aim of favoring a deep and lasting ecological conversion” to respond to challenges facing the planet, Francis said.
He encouraged the activists in their work to protect the environment.
“While the conditions of the planet can appear catastrophic, and certain situations appear even irreversible, we Christians cannot lose hope,’’ Francis said.
A Christian “can’t help but respect the work that the Father entrusted him with, like a garden to cultivate,” the pope said. He added that if people “have the right to use nature for their own ends, they can’t in any way consider themselves its owner or despot.”
Francis has made championing the cause of the environment a major plank of his papacy, especially noting how people living on life’s margins are often most adversely impacted by pollution or exploitation of natural resources.