New UK Ambassador to Holy See on Faith, Science

Christopher Trott Tells Exaudi About Multifaith Encounter in the Vatican Ahead of COP26

Ambassador Holy See
British Ambassador to the Holy See, Christopher Trott, with Pope Francis - Copyright: Vatican Media

We are extremely honored to have Pope Francis’ participation and support in appealing to protect the planet and in decrying harming the environment, expressed the new British Ambassador to the Holy See, Christopher Trott.

He made his comments to Exaudi at his Rome residence when discussing the “Faith and Science: Towards COP26” event in the Vatican on October 4. Faith leaders and scientists will be meeting with the Pope and will push for heightened environmental awareness ahead of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Scotland this November.

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on Nov. 1-12, 2021. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Pope may make a brief trip to Scotland for the COP26 event, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, had told Exaudi‘s Deborah Castellano Lubov when asked whether such a visit was being contemplated.

“We are hoping and we are keeping our fingers crossed,” the Cardinal said, “noting the request has been made and addressed to him. As far as I know, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, has also–through his personal secretary–made contact, and in time to try to synchronize the dates.”

While stressing they would like to synchronize the date and be there together, he still cautioned that “right now, however, I cannot confirm any such participation, but the request has been made”.

Yesterday, Ambassador Trott recalled how world leaders, six years ago in Paris, made a historic agreement to tackle climate change, for instance by working to keep global mean temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius and to strive to limit this rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Paris Agreement and COP26 Background

The Paris Agreement was agreed at COP21 in 2015. For the first time ever it saw almost every country around the world enter into a legally binding commitment to reduce emissions.

The goals of the COP26 are to secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilize finance, and work together to deliver.

Ahead of this widely-anticipated event, the British Ambassador shared about Monday’s encounter, and how the world faith leaders and scientists, with the Pope, are expected to remind of past commitments taken with regard to protecting the planet, and to build on such ambitions in Scotland.

Ambassador Trott told Exaudi how if the Pope were to go to Glasgow, his presence, representing the Holy See, would be significant.

The diplomat highly emphasized how the Pope’s encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’, he believed, helped in the negotiations of the Paris Agreement for how to protect the earth.

Common View of Responsibility for Planet

Recalling the joint preparation between the Vatican and British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See, the Ambassador expressed appreciation for the participating faith leaders’ contributions.

“I was very struck in these discussions about the commonality expressed by these faith leaders, in approach, or in the way they think about our responsibility, for the planet,” he said.

“Whether or not it is the Creation story, as one would find in the Abrahamic religions,” Ambassador Trott underscored, “there is an absolute sense that we do not own this planet. It is not ours to do with as we wish, but rather we are temporary tenants of this planet, and we are required to pass this planet on to future generations, in a state of well-being.”

Thus, the idea for the event–the British diplomat suggested–came from, the work that was done ahead of Paris, in particular, “that grew out of the Pope’s Laudato Si, and his comments around the Paris agreement, which we judge to have had a significant effect on negotiations” in the French capital.

“And our hope is that likewise that at COP26 in Glasgow,” he continued, “the appeal that is coming out on Monday, will be born in mind by world leaders as they sit down and negotiate the outcome of the agreement in Scotland.”

Extremely Honored

“We are extremely honored that the Holy Father himself will be associated with this agreement,” he said, adding: “and we are pleased that the Chairs of the COP meeting will be here and present on Monday, in order to hear the appeal.”

When asked about the impact of the Holy Father on these initiatives, “I think it is important to recognize that a spiritual leader speaks on behalf of and speaks to his or her faithful, his or her congregations.”

“I have been told that about 80 percent speak about having a faith, and if you think about then, religious leaders, and if you think about religious leaders speaking for their congregations, they are speaking for a significant proportion of people around the world.”

“And one of the things that we are very conscious of,” he expressed, “is that obviously, they can also speak to those people.”

Importance of Appeal

“I think that is the sense of the importance of that appeal,” he reflected, in “that it will speak to political leaders, but then it will also speak to the faithful about the importance of this issue.”

“Obviously,” the diplomat acknowledged, “We recognize that not everyone is convinced of the importance or urgency of climate change, but I think that this type of messaging from a very, very well respected group of people, will have an impact on the debates that go on between now and COP, and eventually the debate that will continue beyond COP.”

Hopes for Pope Francis in Scotland

When asked by Exaudi, what would be his hope, if the Holy Father were to go to Glasgow, the Ambassador responded: “I very much hope that the Holy Father will go to Glasgow because what we would like to see particularly in the opening event is as many world leaders as possible coming to Glasgow and making statements, but obviously the Holy Father if he came, would be there as Head of State of the Vatican.”

The Oct. 4 initiative, a statement from the Vatican stated, was developed through monthly virtual meetings that began in early 2021, “in which religious leaders and scientists were able to share their concerns and wishes for greater responsibility for the planet and for the necessary change.”

These exchanges have given rise to a joint appeal that will be signed by religious leaders during the meeting in the Vatican on the morning of Oct. 4, which Pope Francis will deliver into the hands of the Hon. Alok Kumar Sharma, President-designate of COP26, and Hon. Luigi Di Maio, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy.

In the afternoon, a closed-door session will take place at the Embassy of Italy to the Holy See.