Pope Francis has marked Earth Day by urging mankind not to exploit or manipulate the planet, but instead to safeguard the environment in accordance to God's call.
"I exhort everyone to see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the Earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated," Francis said at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, Vatican Radio reported.
Francis continued: "The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations."
In a separate Twitter message to his near 6 million social media followers, the Vatican leader wrote: "We need to care for the Earth so that it may continue, as God willed, to be a source of life for the entire human family."
The Earth Day Network states that the event is celebrating its 45th year anniversary, and works with 50,000 partners across 192 countries. It claims that over 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic obedience in the world, focused on raising awareness for various environmental issues.
Francis has called protecting the environment the "ultimate pro-life, pro-poor, pro-family" issue for Christians in an encyclical letter.
The Vatican has insisted that the pope's statements on the environment are not political in nature, but based on the teachings of the Bible.
"When Pope Francis says that destroying the environment is a grave sin; when he says that it is not large families that cause poverty but an economic culture that puts money and profit ahead of people; when he says that we cannot save the environment without also addressing the profound injustices in the distribution of the goods of the earth; when he says that this is 'an economy that kills' — he is not making some political comment about the relative merits of capitalism and communism," Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in March.
Back in December during the major U.N. climate change summit in Peru, the pope said that the consequences of environmental change represent a "serious ethical and moral responsibility," and warned that the time for action is running out.
Francis also warned that neglecting climate change could have very serious consequences for the planet and humanity, and said that people "can find solutions only if we act together and agree."
Evangelicals such as the World Evangelical Alliance have also spoken about the importance of tackling climate change, especially in regard to the interfaith goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
"We must also state unequivocally that ending extreme poverty without mitigating climate change and combating inequality will be impossible," reads the interfaith imperative, signed by WEA and 30 leaders from major world religions.
"Climate change is already disproportionately hurting people living in poverty. Extreme inequality, within and between countries, contradicts our shared religious values, exacerbates social and political divisions, and will impede progress."