Vatican City, Nov 28, 2016 / 04:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told a group of scientists Monday that their role in finding creative solutions to the world’s problems is more urgent than ever, and praised increasing collaboration between scientific and religious communities.

“It falls to scientists, who work free of political, economic or ideological interests, to develop a cultural model which can face the crisis of climatic change and its social consequences, so that the vast potential of productivity will not be reserved only for the few,” the Pope said Nov. 28.

Just as the scientific community has carried out research demonstrating the planet’s current crisis through interdisciplinary exchange, “so too today that same community is called to offer a leadership that provides general and specific solutions” to increasing issues such as water, renewable forms of energy and food security, he said.

Francis stressed that with the cooperation of scientists, the creation of “a normative system” that includes “inviolable limits and ensures the protection of ecosystems” is now necessary. This must be done, he said, “before the new forms of power deriving from the techno-economic model causes irreversible harm not only to the environment, but also to our societies, to democracy, to justice and freedom.”

With these things in mind, the Pope noted that so far politics in the international sphere “has reacted weakly,” save for a few exceptions. The “concrete will” to pursue the common good leaves something to be desired, while “well-founded scientific opinion” about the state of the planet is disregarded with “ease,” he said. Evidence that politics has been submitted “to a technology and an economy which seek profit above all else,” he said, is made is made visible by the “distraction, or delay in implementing global agreements on the environment.”

Another sign Francis pointed to are “the continued wars of domination camouflaged by righteous claims,” which in the end “inflict ever greater harm on the environment and the moral and cultural richness of peoples.” However, he noted that despite the various challenges, progress has been made.

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, headed by Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, gathered in Rome for their Nov. 25-29 plenary session titled “Science and Sustainability: Impacts of Scientific Knowledge and Technology on Human Society and its Environment.” Members include scientists from around the world, regardless of their religious affiliation. Among those present at this week’s conference include renowned British scientist and self-proclaimed atheist Stephen Hawking. Hawking, who has been a member of the Academy since 1986, spoke to the plenary Nov. 25 on “The Origin of the Universe.” In addition to Francis, he has also met Pope’s Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, all of whom praised his invaluable contribution to science.

In his speech to the plenary, Pope Francis spoke on themes promoted throughout his 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,” insisting that never before has there been such a distinct need “for science to be at the service of a new global ecological equilibrium.” At the same time, he noted how a renewed partnership is being seen between science and Christian communities, “who are witnessing the convergence of their distinct approaches to reality in the shared goal of protecting our common home, threatened as it is by ecological collapse and consequent increase of poverty and social exclusion.” This joint-commitment, he said, is all the more admirable when aimed at promoting justice, peace, human dignity, freedom and an integral human development.  

Francis said that many in the modern world have grown up believing themselves to be “owners and masters of nature,” able to “plunder it” at will without considering the importance of development or the potential of creation. By “subjecting inanimate matter to our whims,” we face consequences such as the “grave loss to biodiversity, among other ills.” He stressed that as guardians of creation, “we are not custodians of a museum or of its major artefacts to be dusted each day,” but rather “co-operators in protecting and developing the life and biodiversity of the planet and of human life present there.”

Pope Francis pointed to the need for “an ecological conversion” that is capable of both “supporting and promoting sustainable development.” This conversion, he said, requires that we assume our full human responsibilities toward creation, and that we seek “social justice and the overcoming of an immoral system that produces misery, inequality and exclusion.”

Despite the many challenges that might impede these efforts, the Pope noted that there are also many “encouraging signs” that humanity “wants to respond, to choose the common good, and regenerate itself with responsibility and solidarity.” “Combined with moral values, the plan for sustainable and integral development is well positioned to offer all scientists, in particular those who profess belief, a powerful impetus for research,” he said.

Francis closed his speech by extending his “best wishes” to those present for their work, and offered his blessing to them and their families, asking for prayers.