VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis and Orthodox Christian leader Patriarch Bartholomew have released a passionate joint appeal to protect the environment, marking the first time that a pope and the ecumenical patriarch have joined forces in such a way.

They made their appeal for the Earth, a major theme of Francis’ papacy, on Friday (Sept. 1), as Texans grappled with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, South Asians coped with floods that have left millions homeless and scientists warned that such natural disasters will multiply if climate change is not addressed. 

Both the pope, leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, and the patriarch,

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