Reverend Vincent H. Dang celebrates the closing Mass for Holy Family Parish in Sugar Notch on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021.

SUGAR NOTCH – With a turn of the key, parishioner Agnes Munley ceremonially locked the doors of Holy Family Church on Sept. 19, 2021.

Prior to the locking ritual, dozens of parishioners gathered for a closing Mass for the church at 1:00 p.m. Father Vincent H. Dang, pastor, celebrated the Mass. Father Joseph R. Kakareka, pastor emeritus, concelebrated.

As parishioners processed out of the church for the final time, they sang “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”

Holy Family Parish was established in 1903 to serve Polish immigrants who came to the United States around the turn of the century. Many settled in the Sugar Notch area for jobs in the coal mines. The coal altar inside the church was purchased in 2000 in memory of those men.

Over its 118-year history, the parish educated students in its own elementary school and underwent numerous renovations – which included new entrances, interior painting and the addition of the coal altar. Holy Family Parish’s current brick building took three years to build and was dedicated on Sept. 13, 1913. The parish’s first wooden church was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning in June 1910.

Parish restructuring has been part of the history of Holy Family Parish – as the community faced the closure of Ss. Peter & Paul Church in 1995 and Saint Charles Borromeo in 2009.

With the closure of Holy Family Parish, parishioners will now belong to Saint Leo the Great Parish in Ashley, and the territory boundary of Saint Leo the Great Parish will now include the previous territorial boundaries of Holy Family Parish.

May God’s Blessings be upon all of the parishioners of Holy Family Parish and the newly formed Saint Leo the Great Parish.


During the Institution of Acolytes, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera places a ciborium in the hands of Martin J. Castaldi, Sr., at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 2, 2021.

SCRANTON – Nine men took the next step in their formation for the permanent diaconate Oct. 2 when they were instituted as acolytes during a special Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the 12:10 p.m. Mass.

The men instituted as acolytes include: John F. Bankus, John F. Bubb, Martin J. Castaldi, Sr., Matthew R. Eisley, William D. Flowers, Thomas A. Kostic, Steven J. Miller, Nicholas M. Rocco and Frank H. Zeranski.

As acolytes, the men are now entrusted with the duties of attending to the altar, assisting the deacon and priest at Mass and distributing Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.

During the institution rite, the nine deacon candidates who were clothed in white albs, approached the altar one by one and knelt before the bishop. He placed a ciborium in the hand of each candidate and said, “Take this vessel with bread for the celebration of the Eucharist. Make your life worthy of your service at the table of the Lord and of His Church.” Each of the candidates then replied, “Amen.”

In his homily, Bishop Bambera used the Gospel of Luke (Luke 9:11b-17) and the exchange between Jesus and His disciples that led to the feeding of thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes to highlight the important work the acolytes have ahead.

“The Eucharistic overtones in the feeding of the multitude are obvious. What may be less obvious, but hardly insignificant, is the fact that Luke’s version heightens the role of the disciples in the process of feeding the crowds. Don’t lose the significance of this fact,” the bishop said.

Nicholas M. Rocco, far left, joins the eight other deacon candidates standing in the front pews of the Cathedral of Saint Peter on Oct. 2, 2021. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

Bishop Bambera explained that the disciples set the stage for Jesus to work His miracle and were the ones who served as distributors of the food.

“The fact that the disciples are actually the ones through whom the crowds experience the lavish generosity of Jesus points to the manner in which Jesus will continue to provide for His people long after he ascends to His Father – namely, in and through the work of His Church,” Bishop Bambera continued.

Bishop Bambera concluded his homily by emphasizing that the living presence of Jesus compels those being instituted as acolytes – and all of us – give others dignity, respect and care.

“Like the disciples of Jesus in today’s gospel who were used by the Lord to feed thousands of hungry people on a hillside in Galilee, all of us are challenged to both give thanks for all that we have been given and to use what we have been given for the sake of others,” the bishop continued. “Without counting the cost, setting conditions or demanding a return.”

Following the Mass, several of the new acolytes reflected on their years of formation thus far.

“I’m proud and humble,” Steven J. Miller explained. “We have been going through all of the classes. Right now, we’re studying about the liturgy but also really praying, asking for God’s guidance.”

“We are in our fourth year. I can see myself growing spiritually,” William D. Flowers said, emphasizing the importance of praying the Liturgy of the Hours twice a day. “No matter how much you think you know, you’re always learning something.”

The nine deacon candidates are scheduled for ordination to the permanent diaconate on Nov. 26, 2022.


Milford, PA – Saint Patrick’s Church and The Tri-State Pregnancy Center held a Rosary prayer service on October 7th at the church. The intentions of the prayers were for children, mothers, and all those affected by abortion; health care workers, especially midwives and those who work in maternity wards; foster and adoptive parents; Mothers and fathers who are struggling in deciding to choose life; and the ministry of the Tri State Pregnancy Center.

The Rosary service was organized by Antonio “Tony” Perito of the Tri-State Pregnancy Center and had many Catholic organizations show up including the Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, and parishioners from all the major Catholic Churches in the area. After the prayer service board members, Lisa Cirello and Stephanie Rubinow, from the Tri State Pregnancy Center met with parishioners discussing the mission and services of the center: Providing material needs such as clothes, diapers, formula, and other items, peer counseling, referral services, and pregnancy tests. All these services are free to anyone that requests them.

The Tri-State Pregnancy Center is a non-profit organization which is totally privately funded via donations and grants.

At the rosary service Tony Perito presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Deacon Tom Spataro in recognition of St. Patrick’s years of support, especially for the $2000 grant from the Diocese of Scranton’s Social Justice Fund. If you or someone you know need services from the Tri-State Pregnancy Center you can contact them by phone at (570)491-5151, text message (570)534-0031, or Facebook, or visit


Pope Francis celebrates a Mass to open the process that will lead up to the assembly of the world Synod of Bishops in 2023, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 10, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A synod calls on everyone to become experts in “the art of encounter” in a way that is uplifting and transformative, Pope Francis said, formally opening the process leading up to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.

“Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, together” just like Jesus did – encountering, listening and discerning with all who one meets, the pope said in his homily at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 10.

“Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way?'” he asked.

Some 3,000 people attended the Mass, including the 270 people — cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople — invited to the day of reflection in the Vatican Synod Hall Oct. 9.

The weekend of events began the “synodal journey,” which will explore the theme, “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.” Bishops around the world were to open the process in their dioceses Oct. 17. The diocesan phase, which runs until April, will focus on listening to and consulting the people of God.

In his homily, the pope said they should begin the synodal process “by asking ourselves — all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity.”

The day’s Gospel reading (Mk 10:17-30) of Jesus setting out on a journey and encountering a rich man offers just one example of how Jesus “walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side.”

Celebrating a synod, he said, means walking on the same road as others and living out the “three verbs” that characterize a synod: to encounter, listen and discern.

“We too are called to become experts in the art of encounter. Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another,” to devote time to prayer and adoration, and to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the church, the pope said.

Jesus shows that an encounter has the power to change someone’s life — “the Gospel is full of such encounters with Christ, encounters that uplift and bring healing,” the pope said. In fact, Jesus was never in a hurry, and he would never have looked at a watch to signal it was time to wrap things up. “He was always at the service of people he met in order to listen to them.”

Each encounter requires “openness, courage and a willingness to let ourselves be challenged by the presence and the stories of others,” the pope said. It means not hiding behind a facade or stiff formalities indicative of a spirit of clericalism or of courtiers, but it means being a father.

To that end, the pope said he would be meeting a group of people who live on the streets later that day. He said they had already started meeting because another group of people had gone to listen to them and from there, “they have been able to begin the journey.”

Sincere listening involves the heart, not just the ears, Pope Francis said. The aim is not to be able to answer people’s questions, especially with pre-packaged or “artificial and shallow responses,” but to provide an opportunity to tell one’s story and speak freely.

“Whenever we listen with the heart, people feel that they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey,” he said.

Listening to one another “is a slow and perhaps tiring exercise” but it must be done, including listening to “the questions, concerns and hopes of every church, people and nation,” and to the “challenges and changes” that world presents, he added.

Encountering and listening “are not ends in themselves” where everything stays the same, but must lead to discernment, he said.

“Whenever we enter into dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to advance on a journey. And in the end, we are no longer the same; we are changed,” he said.

The synod is “a journey of spiritual discernment that takes place in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God,” the pope said.

Discernment is what lights the way and guides the synod, “preventing it from becoming a church convention, a study group or a political congress, but rather a grace-filled event, a process of healing guided by the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said.

Like he asked the rich man in the Gospel reading, Jesus is asking everyone “to empty ourselves, to free ourselves from all that is worldly, including our inward-looking and outworn pastoral models, and to ask ourselves what it is that God wants to say to us in this time and the direction in which he wants to lead us,” he said.

Pope Francis wished everyone “a good journey together! May we be pilgrims in love with the Gospel and open to the surprises of the Spirit.”


Pro-life advocates and supporters of legal abortion demonstrate in Austin, Texas, Oct. 2, 2021. A federal judge in Austin sided with the Biden administration in a ruling late Oct. 6 that temporarily blocks enforcement of a new Texas law banning nearly all abortions after six weeks. (CNS photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A federal judge Oct. 6 temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing a law that went into effect Sept. 1 banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman  in Austin, Texas, granted an emergency request from the Justice Department, which had already sued the state saying the abortion law was unconstitutional.

Pitman’s 113-page order said that once the new abortion law “went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.”

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” it added.

The judge also criticized the means of enforcing the new law, saying lawmakers had “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” with its emphasis on private citizens bringing civil lawsuits in state court against abortion providers.

This temporary order was hardly the final word on this case as Texas officials said they would seek a reversal from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously allowed the abortion restrictions.

Texas Right to Life called the ruling “wildly broad, preventing Texas state officials from enforcing the law, including the shocking prevention to stop Texas elected officials and every Texas judge and court clerk from even receiving lawsuits filed by citizens against the abortion industry.”

It also said the order’s provision blocking lawmakers from such actions is “entirely unnecessary” since the language of the legislation, called the Texas Heartbeat Act, prohibits government officials from enforcing the policy.

The group said the judge’s “effort to obstruct state judges and court clerks from fulfilling their lawful duties is astonishing.”

The pro-life organization also said it is dedicated to “holding the abortion industry accountable to the fullest extent possible under the law” and is confident the state’s abortion law will “ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states’ heartbeat bills have not.”

The “heartbeat” description for such bills comes from their ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable.

On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court ruled against blocking the Texas abortion law, a move that sent the case back to the lower court. It is currently before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.

Abortion providers challenging the law had asked the high court for an emergency ruling on the law without waiting for a final decision by the appeals court.

The Texas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, said the Supreme Court’s action marked the first time since Roe v. Wade that the nation’s high court “has allowed a pro-life law to remain while litigation proceeds in lower courts.”

“We celebrate every life saved by this legislation. Opponents of the law argue the term ‘heartbeat’ is misleading. They call it ’embryonic cardiac activity’ or worse, ‘electrically induced flickering of embryonic tissue.’ These attempts to dehumanize the unborn are disturbing,” the Texas bishops said in a Sept. 3 statement.

Texas abortion providers urged the Supreme Court Sept. 23 to once again review their challenge to the state law asking the court to essentially fast-track a decision on this without waiting for the federal appeals court to rule on it in December.

In their Sept. 23 brief, the abortion providers said abortion clinics in Texas have stopped performing abortions, causing some women to travel to clinics in other states. If the law stays in place, they warned that other states will enact similar laws.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that states cannot restrict abortion before the 24 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetus is said to be viable. On Dec. 1, the court will take up a Mississippi abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.


Photos provided by Mike Melisky

SCRANTON – Saint Lucy’s Church in West Scranton is conducting its 41st annual Candlelight Rosary Novena to the Blessed Mother for the Souls in Purgatory.

The Candlelight Novena began on Saturday, Oct. 2, and will run through Sunday, Oct. 10.

The service begins at 7 p.m. each night. Saint Lucy’s Church is located at 949 Scranton Street in Scranton.

The Rosary will be said by candlelight in the Church. The crowning of Our Blessed Mother will also take place each night. The Novena will close each evening with Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Everyone is invited to attend. Saint Lucy’s Church is handicap accessible.



The likeness of St. Irenaeus of Lyon is pictured in a stained-glass window at the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, Ontario. During an Oct. 7, 2021, meeting with members of the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, Pope Francis said he will soon declare St. Irenaeus a doctor of the church. (CNS photo/The Crosiers)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis said he intends to declare as a doctor of the church St. Irenaeus of Lyon, the second-century theologian known for his defense of orthodoxy amid the rise of gnostic sects.

During a meeting Oct. 7 with members of the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group, the pope praised the group’s efforts in creating a space for dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, much like their namesake.

“Your patron, St. Irenaeus of Lyon – whom I will soon declare a doctor of the church with the title, ‘doctor unitatis’ (‘doctor of unity’) – came from the East, exercised his episcopal ministry in the West, and was a great spiritual and theological bridge between Eastern and Western Christians,” he said.

According to its website, the purpose of the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group is “to investigate the profound differences in mentality, ways of thinking and of doing theology which are related to current problems in Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, to understand their character, and to try to see how both traditions can enrich each other without losing their own identity.”

St. Irenaeus, the group’s website said, “is revered as a patristic father in both the Eastern and Western churches” and “thus represents an example of the spiritual connection between the churches in East and West, which the working group seeks to promote through its discussions.”

Born in Smyrna, Asia Minor – now modern-day Turkey – St. Irenaeus was known as a staunch defender of the faith.

Concerned about the rise of gnostic sects within the early Christian church, he wrote “Adversus haereses” (“Against Heresies”), a refutation of gnostic beliefs which emphasized personal spiritual knowledge over faith in Christian teachings and in ecclesiastical authority.

During their 2019 fall assembly, the U.S. bishops’ conference added their assent to a motion made by the Archdiocese of Lyon, France — the region where St. Irenaeus ministered — to have the second-century bishop declared a doctor of the church.

Once declared, St. Irenaeus would be the second doctor of the church named by Pope Francis after St. Gregory of Narek, who was given the designation in 2015. He would bring the total number of doctors of the church to 37.


A crucifix is pictured in Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice, France, Oct. 4, 2021. A new report on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in France shows there have been 3,000 abusers since the 1950s. (CNS photo/Eric Gaillard, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church’s inability to make victims of abuse their top concern is a cause for intense shame, Pope Francis said.

In the wake of a major report investigating the extent of sexual aggression and abuse against minors in the church in France, the pope said, “I wish to express to the victims my sadness, my grief, for the traumas they have endured, and also my shame.”

This deep sense of shame, “our shame, my shame,” he said, was for “the too lengthy inability of the church to put (victims) at the center of its concerns.”

The pope made his remarks at his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, in the presence of a group of bishops and a cardinal from France who had been in Rome for their “ad limina” visit. Just before the audience, the pope and four of the bishops gathered privately for a moment of silent prayer for victims.

After delivering his main catechesis, the pope highlighted a recent report published by an independent body commissioned by the French bishops’ conference.

According to the four-year investigation, an estimated 216,000 children were abused by priests since 1950, and more than 100,000 others were abused by lay employees of church institutions.

The pope commented on the “considerable number” of known victims revealed in the report.

Assuring victims of his prayers, the pope asked everyone to pray with him: “To you, Lord, the glory; to us, the shame. This is the moment of shame.”

He encouraged the country’s bishops and superiors general of religious orders “to continue to do their utmost so that similar tragedies are not repeated.”

Pope Francis also expressed his closeness to the priests in France, assuring them of his “paternal support before this ordeal, which is arduous but beneficial.”

He invited the nation’s Catholics to take on their responsibility for guaranteeing that “the church be a safe home for everyone.”

Meanwhile, the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, welcomed the publication of the final report of the “Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in France” (

The report “is an indictment of the failures of leadership in the church and those holding responsibility for the care and protection of the faithful,” the cardinal said in a written statement Oct. 6.

“This history of unchecked abuse extending over the course of generations challenges our comprehension of how innocent persons could have suffered so terribly and their voices been ignored for so long,” he wrote.

Working with government officials and law enforcement, he said, the church “must not fail in the commitment to seek healing and justice for the survivors.”

The cardinal welcomed and encouraged the implementation of new measures outlined by church leaders in France earlier this year, and said they show how the “cruel indifference” that survivors experienced in the church “can be turned into care and protection.”

“The church in France has taken the necessary first steps for dealing with the scourge of sexual abuse by commissioning this report,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “We must all adhere to Pope Francis’ directive, ‘there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors or vulnerable adults.'”

On behalf of the papal commission, he wrote, “I express our profound sorrow and humbly ask forgiveness on the part of all those harmed by these crimes and reprehensible violations of human dignity.”

“This report is yet another clarion call to the church throughout the world to hold the safeguarding and protection of children and vulnerable adults as our highest priority,” he said.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Oct. 5 that Pope Francis was praying for the tens of thousands of victims of clerical sexual abuse in France and urged the Catholic Church in the country to “undertake a path of redemption.”

Pope Francis learned “with sorrow” of the contents of the report and his “thoughts go first of all to the victims, with great sorrow for their wounds and gratitude for their courage in reporting” their abuse, Bruni said in response to reporters’ inquiries in the wake of the report’s release.

The pope also prayed that the Catholic Church in France, “in the awareness of this appalling reality” of the suffering of vulnerable children, would trace out a path of repentance and reform.

“With his prayer, the pope entrusts to the Lord the people of God in France, particularly the victims, that he may give them comfort and consolation, and with justice may the miracle of healing come,” Bruni said.

The report, released Oct. 5, was written by an investigating commission led by Jean-Marc Sauvé, a senior civil servant.

Before the report was published, he told reporters the inquiry found evidence of between 2,900 and 3,200 abusive priests out of a total of about 115,000 who had served in France since 1950.


Molly White, a senior at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, serves as a reader during the Diocese of Scranton’s Respect Life Mass on Oct. 3, 2021, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

SCRANTON – When reflecting on the importance of October as Respect Life Month, it is heartening to know that many young people are involved. Thousands of students attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. – while many others take part in pro-life efforts in their high school and colleges.

Several students from Holy Cross High School in Dunmore showed their commitment to the protection of life on Sunday, Oct. 3, by serving as readers, gift bearers and altar servers at the Diocese of Scranton’s annual Respect Life Mass held at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

“I think it’s important as high schoolers to be here and represent our age group and our support for life,” senior Molly White said.

“It’s important to me. It makes me happy to see everybody coming together to respect life,” senior Andrew Francis added.



Ryan Legg, a senior at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, serves as a reader during the Diocese of Scranton’s Respect Life Mass on Oct. 3, 2021, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

Julia Goetz, a Holy Cross senior from Old Forge, believes it is a critical topic for teenagers to discuss.

“I think it’s important as a teenager to bring up how important it is to be pro-life and that life is God’s gift to us,” she said.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist for the Respect Life Mass. He invited the faithful to focus upon Saint Joseph as the great defender of life for our Savior, Jesus, and his mother, Mary.

“In the gospels, Saint Joseph is described as a man of deep faith, who, despite his uncertainty about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, is willing to set aside his own judgments and instead place his trust unwaveringly in the power of God. For Saint Joseph, God was in control and that was all that mattered,” Bishop Bambera said.

The bishop also explained how threats to human life are continuing to increase.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, delivers his homily during the Diocese of Scranton’s Respect Life Mass on Oct. 3, 2021, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

“In our very own country, while the United States Supreme Court has provided us with some degree of hope by agreeing to hear a major challenge to abortion rights, just over a week ago, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass what many have described as the most radical abortion on demand bill that our nation has ever seen,” Bishop Bambera noted.

While particularly noting the “scourge of abortion” as a threat to human life, the bishop also identified other threats that include assisted suicide, euthanasia, infanticide, human cloning, the death penalty, human trafficking, unjust immigration laws and the dire consequences of war.

Julia Goetz and Andrew Francis, seniors at Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, serve as gift bearers during the Diocese of Scranton’s Respect Life Mass on Oct. 3, 2021, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

“When we rationalize why the taking of one life should be allowed, every life is in jeopardy,” Bishop Bambera said.

That part of the bishop’s homily resonated with Molly White, who served as a reader during the Mass.

“Trying to get rid of the death penalty is important to me,” she explained.


Pope Francis listens as Joachim Von Braun, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, addresses the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – High-level representatives of the world’s religions came together with Pope Francis at the Vatican to show their joint commitment to caring for the Earth and to appeal to world leaders to deepen their commitments to mitigating climate change.

To the strains of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and surrounded by potted greenery and the colorful frescoes of the Hall of Benedictions, nearly 40 faith leaders signed a joint appeal that Pope Francis then blessed and gave to Alok Sharma, president-designate of COP26, and to Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s foreign affairs minister.

“Future generations will never forgive us if we miss the opportunity to protect our common home. We have inherited a garden: We must not leave a desert to our children,” said the written appeal, signed Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.

Pope Francis pours dirt into a potted olive tree during the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The appeal urged world leaders, who will meet at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of Parties – COP26 – in Glasgow Nov. 1-12, “to take speedy, responsible and shared action to safeguard, restore and heal our wounded humanity and the home entrusted to our stewardship.”

Participants included top scientists and major religious leaders including: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, England; Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, representing Patriarch Kirill of Moscow; Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar; Rabbi Noam Marans of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations; and top representatives of other Christian denominations, Sunni and Shi’a Muslim communities, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.

The appeal called on nations to: increase their levels of commitment and international cooperation; meet net-zero

Pope Francis leads the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

carbon emissions as soon as possible as part of efforts to mitigate rising global average temperatures; step up climate action at home and financially assist more vulnerable countries in adapting to and addressing climate change; increase their transition to cleaner energy and sustainable land use practices; and promote environmentally friendly food systems and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

The religious leaders also pledged that they themselves would promote ecological education; advocate for a “change of heart” in their own communities concerning caring for all of creation; encourage sustainable lifestyles; take part in public debates on environmental issues; and support “greening” their institutions, properties and investments.

They symbolically marked their personal commitment by pouring a cup of soil onto a potted olive tree that will be planted in the Vatican Gardens.

Pope Francis signs a joint appeal during the meeting, “Faith and Science: Towards COP26,” with religious leaders in the Hall of Benedictions at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2021. The meeting was part of the run-up to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The representatives took to the floor with a brief speech, commentary or declaration, with many detailing what their faith tradition teaches about the moral imperative of caring for humanity’s common home. At the end of the ceremony, recorded messages and appeals were played from those religious leaders that could not attend the event due to pandemic restrictions.

Saying he wanted to leave more time to hear from everyone, Pope Francis chose to skip reading his speech aloud since everyone had a written copy.

In the full text, the pope said COP26 “represents an urgent summons to provide effective responses to the unprecedented ecological crisis and the crisis of values that we are presently experiencing, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.”

He proposed “three concepts” to guide their joint efforts: “openness to interdependence and sharing; the dynamism of love; and the call to respect.”

“Recognizing that the world is interconnected means not only realizing the harmful effects of our actions, but also identifying behaviors and solutions to be adopted, in an attitude of openness to interdependence” and sharing the responsibility and ways to care for others and the environment, he wrote.

Religious and spiritual traditions can help promote love, which “creates bonds and expands existence, for it draws people out of themselves and toward others,” especially the poor, he wrote.

Faith traditions, he said, can help break down “barriers of selfishness,” counter today’s “throwaway culture” and combat the “seeds of conflict: greed, indifference, ignorance, fear, injustice, insecurity and violence,” which harm people and the planet.

“We can face this challenge” with personal examples, action and education, the pope wrote.

Finally, the pope wrote, there must be respect for creation, respect for others, “for ourselves and for the creator, but also mutual respect between faith and science.”

Respect, he wrote, is “an empathetic and active experience of desiring to know others and to enter into dialogue with them, in order to walk together on a common journey.”

The meeting, “Faith and Science: Toward COP26,” was organized by the embassies of the United Kingdom and Italy to the Holy See, together with the Vatican. The U.K. and Italy were co-chairing the summit in Glasgow, where parties from 197 nations are meant to find agreement on how to tackle the threat of climate change.

The appeal of religious leaders and scientists came after months of dialogue and agreement that there is a common moral duty to tackle climate change.

The COP26 co-chairs wanted to include the voices of religious leaders given the moral and ethical imperative of environmental protection, but also because of their global reach and authority as they represent an estimated 84% of the world’s population who identify with a faith.