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Pope Calls for Protection of Environment, Heads to Bolivia

  • VOA News

Pope Francis speaks with members of the civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015.

Pope Francis speaks with members of the civil society at the San Francisco Church in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015.

Pope Francis continues his tour of South America in Boliva Wednesday, after urging the faithful to open their arms to the poor and preserve the environment for future generations during a pair of speeches in Ecuador.

The pontiff told a group of business leaders and indigenous tribes in the capital city of Quito that "the goods of the Earth are meant for everyone, and however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage."

His remarks on the environment were the first since he released his encyclical last month calling on world leaders to take immediate action to halt climate change, including ending the Earth's reliance on fossil fuels.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he arrives to San Francisco Square aboard the popemobile in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015.

Pope Francis blesses the faithful as he arrives to San Francisco Square aboard the popemobile in Quito, Ecuador, July 7, 2015.

Criticism

The pontiff has faced heated criticism among climate change skeptics for his stance, especially in the United States, which he plans to visit in Septermber. Conservatives have denounced him as ill informed on the issue, and have called on him to drop the issue.

The pope's call Tuesday was apparently aimed at President Rafael Correa, who has made oil and gas exploration in Ecuador -- home to some of the world's most biodiverse species in the Amazon rain forest and Galapagos Islands - a priority. This has angered environmentalists and indigenous peoples.

"One thing is certain, we can no longer turn our backs on reality, on our brothers and sisters, on Mother Earth," Pope Francis told an audience during an earlier speech at Catholic University.



Ecuador mass

Earlier Tuesday, during an open air mass in Quito's Bicentennial Park Tuesday, Francis urged a crowd of more than 1 million people in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, to unite in their belief and help spread the Roman Catholic faith on the continent.

He told the gathering that in a world divided by wars, violence and individualism, Catholics should be "builders of unity,'' bringing together hopes and ideals of their people.

The pope heads to Paraguay on Friday.

A large portion of the Roman Catholic Church's 1.2 billion followers are in Latin America, although those numbers have slightly declined due to the rising popularity of other faiths.

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