25 August 2019, The Tablet

Fight fires to save the Amazon, pleads Pope

In October Pope Francis will host his landmark Amazon synod, which will focus on the environment among other matters

Fight fires to save the Amazon, pleads Pope

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus at the Vatican
Evandro Inetti/Zuma Press/PA Images

Pope Francis has called for a joint effort by the international community to stop the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest and protect a region he describes as a “vital lung” of the world. 

Speaking after praying the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, the 82-year-old Latin American Pope pointed to the global concern for the “vast fires” in the Amazon praying that through a cross-national commitment they “might be contained as soon as possible”. 

Leaders of the world’s major democracies are discussing how to contain the wildfires during their G7 gathering in Biarritz, France. Ireland and France have both threatened to block a free trade agreement between the EU and Latin American Countries if Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro does not change his Amazon policy. Experts believe that the populist leader’s removal of rainforest protections, allowing for deforestation, have fuelled the fires. 

For his part, the Pope will host a landmark synod of bishops gathering on the Amazon in Rome from 6-27 October 2019, which will focus on how the Church can help protect region’s environment and indigenous peoples.

The Pope's Amazon appeal came after one by the Latin American Bishops.

In a statement, they desribed the fires as a “tremendous natural tragedy,” and also called on the United Nations and the governments of the Amazon region to “take serious measures to save the lung of the world”. 

Meanwhile, during the Angelus Francis explained to the crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square, which included a group of Brazilians holding up their national flag, that Christians are required to pass through a “narrow door” in order to attain salvation. It requires, he said, a life of prayer and good works, and to be nourishment by the sacraments.  

Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, Francis said there is no “quota in paradise”, adding that God is not interested in titles, but in humble service. 

“The Lord will not recognise us for the titles we have. ‘Oh but Lord, I was part of that association, I was a friend of that monsignor, that cardinal, that priest’! No,” said the Pope. “Titles don’t count, they don’t count.” 

He went on: “The Lord will recognise us only for a humble and good life’; a life of faith that results in [good] works.

“It is a question of crossing the right path, which exists for everyone but is narrow…What do you mean? In the sense that to be saved, one must love God and one’s neighbour, and this is not comfortable! It is a ‘narrow door’ because it is demanding, requires commitment, effort, that is to say, a determined and preserving will to live according to the Gospel. St Paul calls it ‘the good fight of the faith’ (1 Tim 6:12).”

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