30 November 2015, The Tablet

On plane from Africa Pope Francis says that it is 'now or never' for Paris climate talks

by Christopher Lamb on papal plane

The Pope has said the world is heading towards “suicide” unless leaders can come up with a plan to deal with climate change.

“It is now or never,” he told journalists during an in-flight press conference to Rome travelling from Bangui, in the Central African Republic after his trip to Africa. 

He said time was running out for leaders to come up with a plan as due to the melting of glaciers some countries would not exist in 20 years time. 

Francis expressed hope that the “good consciences” of the leaders would bring about an agreement at the United Nations summit in the French capital this week. During his visit to the UN office in Nairobi on Thursday the Pope said it would be catastrophic of the question of climate change was not addressed head on. 

Francis has been keen to help bring about an agreement at the Paris talks having issued an encyclical on the environment this year as well as addressing the topic during his speech at the UN headquarters in New York in September. 

During the press conference the Pope was also asked about whether the Church would relax its prohibition on the use of condoms in order to combat the spread of HIV-Aids. 

Francis said the question was too narrow in its focus and was “partisan.” The problem, the Pope explained, is much bigger and he pointed to malnourishment, arms trafficking and a lack of drinking water as causes of death. Using condoms, the Pope added, was like putting a "band aid" on a larger wound. 

Francis used the example in the Gospel when the scribes and pharisees sought to trick Jesus by asking him about whether it was possible to heal someone on the sabbath. This implied the Pope thuoght it was important to help save people first and then talk about more technical questions - such as the use of condoms - later.  

On the plane the Pope was asked, given the Vatican’s decision to prosecute two journalists for writing about financial mismanagement in the Holy See, about the freedom of the press to expose corruption. 

Francis said it was right for the press to denounce injustices and corruption and it was important that all the press “lay or confessional” were “professional.” He said if there was corruption a professional journalist should look at the data carefully - if they get it wrong a correction can be asked for. 

He also pointed out the three “sins” of the professional press which he cited as misinformation, slander and defamation.   

On Vatileaks, the Pope said his sleep is “not ruined” by Francesca Chaouqui who is another defendant in the trial and stands accused of leaking documents to journalist. The Pope said he hoped the trial would finish by the end of December but that it was important for the lawyers of the defendants to maker their case. 

Speaking about Islam Francis said it was not possible to banish a whole religion because of some groups of fundamentalists. He pointed out that Christians had started wars and had things to apologise for. “The sack of Rome was not done by Muslims,” he quipped. 

He said that fundamentalism exists in all religions, including in Catholicism, but fundamentalism is not religious because God is “not there.”

The visit to Africa “was a surprise”, the Pope explained, and he was impressed by the people's ability to “party on an empty stomach.”

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