Reflecting on the Pope’s absence at COP28 and the role of Catholic actors – CIDSE

Reflecting on the Pope’s absence at COP28 and the role of Catholic actors

By Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE Secretary General

Today is the official opening of COP28 in Dubai. We are all so excited. We had hoped that the presence of Pope Francis would serve as a source of inspiration and guidance, and provoke us into action. Despite the urgency and overwhelming scientific evidence, collective action has been slow to pick up. We envisioned Pope Francis emboldening the role and messages of the Holy See’s delegation which has taken up the task of full participation in the negotiations with ambition and moral impulse. 

In addressing the COP28 assembly, the Pope would not be introducing any new facts. Everyone present is aware of what is happening to our planet and all the decisions we need to put in place to address the crisis before it’s too late. While opinions on priorities and strategies may differ, the science remains clear and is widely accepted. 

What is often missing from these international gatherings is a sense of collective responsibility, a will and a belief that we can and must do more. We must go beyond individual actions or national plans to get there, embracing responsibility towards our common home, the common good, human dignity and our global human family. This requires going beyond the limits we place on ourselves, our ideas and perceptions of what is ‘possible’, ‘realistic’, ‘efficient’ or ‘affordable’.  

Although this usually means not disrupting our current way of life and the economic system that sustains it, we need a radical shift driven by love and faith in our collective future. The prospect of such change can be terrifying if faced alone, but together, and holding each other, it is then possible. We gain courage and strength, intelligence and imagination from each other, especially when we truly listen to all the ideas, wisdom, and voices opening our minds and hearts to new possibilities. 

We believe the Holy Father would have reminded us of this, with his great communication skills and pastor role. He does not only speak in facts and figures, with insights and reflections in science but he also speaks to our hearts and our imaginations, reminding us of all that we are capable of together.  

Though he cannot be with us physically in the room, we hope he will send us a message that will shake us up and wake us up from our frozen paralysis and fear and give us the courage we need. 

It’s up to all of us to breathe this spirit of change and faith and confidence into the rooms, conversations, and negotiations. It starts with us, perhaps as Catholic actors, as we share this understanding, but it extends to many others beyond our circle. We will support the Holy See’s delegation in every way we can, so that they can represent the values and views of the Vatican and the Holy Father. Together, we must encourage and inspire others to listen to all the voices, especially those absent in the room who are facing the consequences of climate change and whose lives are already being deeply affected. 

Additional reading 
– ‘Catholics at COP28 vow to carry ill pope’s call for action on climate change’, Earthbeat, 30 November 2023  
The biggest NGO in the world’: What role can religious leaders and faith groups play at COP28? , Euronews, 29 November 2023
– ‘COP28: l’un des rares espaces où décideurs et leaders du monde entier se rassemblent autour des questions climatiques‘, CathoBel, 29 November 2023

See also: CIDSE activities at COP28

Cover photo image credit: CIDSE

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