Since 1868, Franciscans in Glasgow have assisted those in need. They’ve opened credit unions to help poor people with their finances and administered to the sick in times of pandemic and plague.

This week, they’re carrying on that tradition of aiding the marginalized by calling on governments to set ambitious targets at the United Nations 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

“We join with this great groundswell of protest and concern to speak up for our wonderful planet under threat of ruin and destruction and for the multitudes of people who live in it,” said Father George Smulski, OFM, a Franciscan who serves in Glasgow.

He and other Franciscans from around the world shared how they’re aiding our wounded planet In a special COP26-themed webinar titled, “Defending a Healthy Planet: Franciscan action at the UN Climate Conference.” The webinar was presented by Franciscans International and Laudato Si’ Movement and broadcast live from the Franciscan Friary in Glasgow.

Watch the entire ‘Defending a Healthy Planet’ webinar

Budi Tjahjono, Asia Pacific Program Coordinator for Franciscans International, detailed how the group advocates for the most vulnerable, those who are feeling the worst effects of the climate emergency and ecological crisis despite having little to do with the greenhouse gas emissions causing the crises.

“We are trying really to work on the issue of climate justice and environmental justice,” he said.

He listed some of their priorities and hopes for COP26, including a renewed commitment from governments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century.

Our common home has already warmed 1.1 degrees and is on pace to heat up 2.7 degrees this century, according to the United Nations Emissions Gap Report 2021.

Brother Christopher John, SSF, Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis, serves in the Solomon Islands. The Southeast Asian country risks disappearing in the coming years as sea levels rise.

Every time Brother John speaks with local people, he hears the same three worries: logging, climate change, and corrupt politicians. “You won’t be surprised to know these are all connected,” he said.

But things have started to change as the government has begun listening more and accepting their recommendations. Yet the climate crisis remains.

“Climate change is an existential threat to small Pacific islands. They’re already being inundated with rising seas. Gardens and drinking water are turning salty,” he said.

Other groups have also taken action for God’s creation in Asia Pacific. Mylene Saluta, Executive Director for the Fellowship for the Care of Creation of the Philippines, builds and sustains Laudato Si’ farms that also serve as educational hubs for organic agriculture.

To Brother Clark Berge, SSF, Guardian of Hilfield Friary (England), being a Franciscan means “walking the talk,” living sustainably, and helping others care for God’s creation. At his friary, they have 50 acres of land, with a small herd of cattle, pigs, chickens, and bees. Everything they do is entirely organic.

“We share the land, meaning the planet, with many species and many of these are at risk because of humanity’s thoughtless way of living,” said Brother Berge.

Catholics across the globe have spoken up for all species by signing the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” petition. Lindlyn Moma, Laudato Si’ Movement’s Advocacy Director, said that more than 120,000 people have signed the prophetic petition that calls on governments to do four things at COP26 and the United Nations’ biodiversity conference, to be held in person in April 2022:

  1. Tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis together
  2. Limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and promise no more biodiversity loss
  3. Ensure equitable global action, including support for those most affected
  4. Protect and respect human rights, including the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in climate and biodiversity action

Father Angelito Cortez, OFM, Vice-Director of the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office in Rome, offered a moving testimony about those who have died because of stronger storms scientists say are likely caused by the climate crisis.

Moving forward, Father Cortez said, we must collaborate and leave no one behind.

Read and watch more about COP26: