The leaders of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have issued an unprecedented joint appeal to people to work for the survival of the planet, including making “meaningful sacrifices”.


The Most Revd Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I released their joint “Message for the Protection of Creation” this week in which they write about the need for prompt action on climate change. The leaders warn of “the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty and the importance of global cooperation” and urge repentance for humanity’s exploitation of the planet.


The message comes during September, known to many Christians as the Season of Creation and just seven weeks before world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 talks on climate change. They write: “As leaders of our churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.”


The three leaders have been calling for action on climate change for some time. Pope Francis published his encyclical, or teaching document on the environment, Laudato Si’, in which he talked about the dangers facing the planet – what he called Our Common Home. Speculation is now growing that he might attend COP 26. Another sign of the seriousness with which all three leaders approach environmental issues is that the joint statement was the first initiative of Archbishop Welby on his return from sabbatical.


The leaders are frank in their message about the sinfulness of humanity in its treatment of God’s creation and at the expense of the young and those who come after us: “We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations. By concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage”.


There is concern, too, for the way in which the poorest people around the globe are already suffering the most from the impact of climate change, with low-lying islands already enduring rising sea-waters – something that was discussed at the

Building Fraternity, Defending Justice conference held in Rome in May by the Anglican Centre in Rome and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Development.  

The three leaders say there is “profound injustice” in the way people are suffering, and that we should “respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice”.


When asked about during an interview on the Today programme on the BBC’s Radio 4 on Thursday whether he has himself made meaningful sacrifices,  Archbishop Welby said that he had got rid of his official diesel car, cut back on travel, cut back on eating meat and was committed to recycling. The Church of England is committed to net zero carbon by 2030, he said. The key to the joint message, he said, was “Choose life. This is a choice between choosing life and choosing death and we have to think intergenerationally”.