Pope Francis on Amazon: That forest lung is vital for our planet

26 August 2019
A labourer gestures as he looks at a fire that spread to the farm he works on in northern Mato Grosso state in Brazil. Image: AFP or licensors/Vatican News.


Pope Francis prays that Amazon fires might be contained as possible.

At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted the universal concern for the “vast fires” that are raging throughout the Amazon region. The Holy Father prayed that, “with the commitment of all,” the fires “might be contained as soon as possible.”

“That forest lung is vital for our planet,” the Pope said.

Army deployed to fight fires

Brazilian state experts reported nearly 77,000 wildfires across the country so far in 2019, an increase of 85% over the same period in 2018. More than half of those fires occurred in the Amazon region.

On Saturday, Brazilian troops on Saturday were deploying in the Amazon to fight the fires. President Jair Bolsonaro tried to temper global concern, saying that previously deforested areas had burned and that intact rainforest was spared. Some 44,000 troops will be available for “unprecedented” operations to put out the fires, and forces are heading to six Brazilian states that asked for federal help, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo said.

The Brazilian military operations came after widespread criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the situation. On Friday, the president authorised the armed forces to put out fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.

Growing concern

The large number of fires in the Amazon has prompted anti-government protests as well as an international outcry. In a statement issued last week, the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) express their deep concern for destructive fires burning the world’s forests.

The Bishops called on the governments of Amazon countries, the United Nations and the international community to help “save the lungs of the world.” Quoting a homily by Pope Francis, the Bishops urged all those who occupy positions of responsibility  to be “custodians of creation, of God’s design inscribed in nature, guardians of the other, of the environment” and to “not allow the signs of destruction and death accompany the path of this in our world” – because, they say, “if the Amazon suffers, the world suffers.”

With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.


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