On Thursday 20 April, Greater Manchester’s faith and civic leaders attended a private audience with The Holy Father to discuss how the region is tackling the climate emergency, and to make a formal commitment to working together to protect our planet and to care for our brothers and sisters around the world.
The delegation was led by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, Bishop John Arnold, and the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, and also welcomed the Dean of Salford Cathedral, Canon Michael Jones, and the Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford, Dr Emma Gardner.
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, particularly 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.”
Also in attendance was Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, The Lord Mayor of Manchester Donna Ludford, Bishop of Manchester David Walker, Gorton MP Mohammed Afzal Kahn, and Chair of the Manchester Climate Change Partnership, Mike Wilton.
Representatives from the Sikh and Hindu communities also joined the delegation, as well as Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen, from the Manchester Reform Synagogue, and city-centre Methodist Minister Rev’d Ian Rutherford.
“Distinguished by its common witness”
During his address, Pope Francis said: “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.”
The Anglican Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, sent this message to his Diocese from the Vatican