Pope Francis: More sustainable cities can help with population decline — By: Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis on Nov. 24, 2023, met with representatives, mayors, and religious leaders from areas in central Italy hit by devastating earthquakes between August 2016 and January 2017. / Credit: Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Nov 24, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Friday one of the ways to address population decline is to make cities more sustainable, increasing the quality of life for those who live there.

“Adopting appropriate criteria for sustainability is an important act of justice and charity, because it aims to meet needs without compromising the safety and survival of those around us and those who will come after us,” he said during a meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Nov. 24.

He noted that the condition in many cities has become “unlivable” due to pollution, chaos, isolation, marginalization, and loneliness.

Addressing these problems, the pope added, “means putting the person back at the center of the city: This is the way forward. It is the way that will be able to help also address the crises of depopulation and population decline by offering the opportunity to live in environments rich in all that the ancestors left behind, enhanced and embellished by a wise management for the community.”

Pope Francis met with representatives, many of them town mayors, from central Italy, which was devastated by a series of powerful earthquakes between August 2016 and January 2017.

He praised those present for their reconstruction efforts, especially the attention to climate change, sustainability, and respect for nature.

Pope Francis will speak on the climate and related issues at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he will travel Dec. 1–3. It will be Francis’ first time attending and addressing part of the 13-day conference.

Climate issues and the environment have been a priority of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

In October, he released his second major document on the topic, the apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), in which he warned of “grave consequences” if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

In his speech on Friday, Francis quoted from Laudate Deum, saying “there is no doubt that the impact of climate change will increasingly harm the lives of many people and families. We will feel the effects in terms of health, jobs, access to resources, housing, forced migration, and in other areas.”

This is why, he added, it is important to implement the necessary measures to slow or stop climate change and to provide methods for coping with the changes that have already taken place.

“Here, too, it is a matter of an open gaze, attentive to others and those who will come after us; we should not be discouraged by criticism or discontented people,” he said.

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