Vatican urges 'motherly care' for climate refugees

Vatican City (AFP) –


Climate change is real and more must be done to protect people displaced by it, the Vatican said Tuesday, as it presented guidelines on helping millions forced to flee their homes.

The document, "Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People," is a series of policies and proposals to bishops' conferences, local churches, congregations and organisations dealing with people displaced by climate impacts.

"The Catholic Church has a motherly care for all those who have been displaced by the effects of this crisis," it read.

It is not the first time the Church has addressed the dangers and repercussions of climate change.

Pope Francis, who has made environmental protection one of the top focuses of his papacy, has often spoken out against global warming, calling it a major threat to the planet.

The document released Tuesday said it was intended as a "roadmap in pastoral planning of climate displaced people."

"We are already in a climate crisis, one that is fast accelerating," and "causing immense suffering to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world," it said.

"It is the poor and vulnerable communities around the world who are disproportionately affected by the ecological and climate crises.

"They are the innocent ones, having contributed least to causing the problem in the first place."

- 'Destructive activity' -

Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes due to the impacts of climate change, from extreme weather to environmental degradation.

According to figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, cited by the Vatican, natural disasters triggered 24.9 million displacements across 140 countries and territories in 2019 -- three times the number displaced by violence.

The new guidelines address ways to raise awareness of climate displaced people, encourage dialogue with governments and policy-makers, and call for welcoming displaced people into the Church.

In a preface to the document, Pope Francis said although people being driven from their homes due to severe climate events might look inevitable, "like a process of nature," the reality was often otherwise.

"The deteriorating climate is very often the result of poor choices and destructive activity, of selfishness and neglect, that set humankind at odds with creation, our common home," he wrote.

At an online press conference, the Archbishop of Beira in Mozambique spoke remotely from his diocese, describing the destruction caused by a series of unprecedented powerful cyclones over the past two years.

Monsignor Claudio Dalla Zuanna described how 2019's Cyclone Idai destroyed 90 percent of the buildings in Beira and sparked devastating flooding, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Another priest, Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, who works in the Vatican department that complied the report, called climate change "ultimately a moral problem".

"The poor and vulnerable communities whose carbon emissions are only a fraction of those of the rich world are already the early and disproportionate victims of the crisis," he said.