Pope Francis spoke out against the destruction of the rainforest this past weekend, calling deforestation a “sin” and asking his fellow Catholics to respect God’s Creation.
Speaking at the University of Molise on Saturday, July 5, before an audience that included struggling farmers, Francis decried the destruction of South America’s rainforests such as the Amazon, which contains an estimated 390 billion individual trees but had the highest deforestation rate in the world as of 2005.
“This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” the pope said in unprepared remarks. “When I look at America, also my own homeland (South America), so many forests, all cut, that have become land … that can longer give life (sic). This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to her (sic) give us what she has within her.”
Francis, who hails from Argentina, is developing something of a reputation as a faith-based environmentalist. In addition to mentioning climate change in hisinaugural papal mass, he told a massive crowd in Rome earlier this year that “if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us,” and is also working on a formal papal encyclical about the environment. And this isn’t the first time the pontiff has spoken up on behalf of the Amazon. When visiting Brazil in July of last year, Francistold a group of Brazilian bishops that the Amazon — which resides almost entirely within nations where Catholicism is the dominant religion — should not be “indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden.”