Greater Manchester leaders commit to climate pledge in meeting with Pope Francis

18 April 2023

Greater Manchester civic leaders and members of th...

On Thursday April 20, the region’s faith and civic leaders attended a private audience with The Holy Father to discuss how Greater Manchester is tackling the climate crisis and made a formal commitment in his presence on the action they pledge to take in future.

The group, led by Bishop of Salford John Arnold and Dean of Manchester Rogers Govender, consisted of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, The Lord Mayor of Manchester Donna Ludford, Bishop of Manchester David Walker, Gorton MP Mohammed Afzal Kahn and Chair of the Manchester Climate Change Partnership Mike Wilton.

City Centre Methodist Minister Rev’d Ian Rutherford, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen from the Manchester Reform Synagogue, environmental officers from both the Diocese of Manchester and Salford and members of the Sikh and Hindu communities also attended.

Dean of Manchester Rogers Govender said: “It is an honour to go to The Vatican in the presence of the Holy Father to reflect and share wisdom on one of the most pressing issues of our era, the climate crisis.

“In Manchester and the wider borough, faith leaders have been working to address these issues for more than a decade. As Greater Manchester continues to grow, we cannot avoid the challenges of carbon reduction and the impact on the environment. It is this desire to work together across faith communities, and the political and civic sectors that needs greater action.

“Bishop John and I hope this once in a lifetime audience with Pope Francis will reflect this commitment to greater collaboration to benefit all the people of Greater Manchester.”

Bishop John Arnold said: “The devastation that we are witnessing around the world is no longer in isolated occurrences but a constant reminder that we are now at a ‘vital moment’ or a ‘turning point’. Our actions and way of life are inflicting damage across our common home.

“By leading this delegation, we look to use our influence in the wider community, to people of all faiths and none, leading by example and sharing opportunities to learn from each other as we respond to the ecological crisis.

“We thank the Holy Father for his leadership in alerting the world’s attention to the urgent damage of the climate crisis. In his words, “each and everyone of us has our part to play.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “This is the first time that all the faith leaders of Greater Manchester have come together with civic leaders to agree our pledge for a greener Greater Manchester region.

“It will give me great pride to be at The Vatican to witness the historic moment our faith and civic leaders make our commitment to the Holy Father.”

Pope Francis has shown a commitment to focusing the world’s attention on the damage of climate change throughout his ten-year papacy, including dedicating his first papal encyclical Laudato Si’ in May 2015 to the subject, focussing on care for the natural environment and all people.

Over a decade ago, colleagues from Greater Manchester faith communities formed the group Our Faith, Our Planet, a forum raising awareness on environmental issues and encouraging collaboration to tackle the climate crisis across the region’s faith communities.

During their meeting at The Vatican, the group made a pledge to Pope Francis to:

  • Support the use of renewable technology and accelerate the decarbonisation of our places of worship.
  • Use our land to help heal nature and increase biodiversity.
  • Encourage our communities to engage in proactive transformational behavioural change.

The private audience allowed members of the Our Faith, Our Planet group and civic leaders to discuss the work that has already taken place - including audits of the carbon footprint of faith buildings across the city region, education and outreach programmes, inputting into green summits and the introduction of the BEE network of transport - whilst hearing words of encouragement and support from the Holy Father.

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Stein from Manchester Reform Synagogue, a member of Our Faith, Our Planet, said: “Aside from the opportunity to meet with the Pope, I am excited to spend dedicated time with colleagues and leaders from across Greater Manchester.  To have politicians, civic leaders and faith leaders together should give us a unique space to have honest, challenging and productive conversations for us to take home and implement.”