The message that God wants believers to be green is emerging from a Vatican conference on climate change in the latest sign of growing concern by religious groups around the world over the fate of the planet.

Scientists, environment ministers and leaders of various religions from 20 countries sat down for two days to discuss the implications of global warming and development.

While the scientists spoke of the dynamics of greenhouse gasses, temperature patterns, rain forests and exhaust emissions, the men and women of religion discussed the moral and theological aspects of protecting the environment.

The conference, organized by the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, marked the most significant plunge to date by the Roman Catholic Church -- the world's largest Christian grouping -- into one of the hottest contemporary topics.

"Climate change is one of the signs of the times affecting the Catholic Church as a global organization. The Catholic Church must take a stand on this present-day and urgent question," said Bishop Bernd Uhl of Freiburg, Germany.

In recent years, the world's major religions have gone more green in the race to save the planet, which they teach mankind has in stewardship and must protect for future generations.

Over the past year, some evangelical Protestant churches in the United States -- strong conservative backers of President George W. Bush -- have broken ranks with the White House to call for urgent measures to protect the environment.

National Catholic bishops conferences in some countries, including the United States and Australia, have issued statements or pastoral letters on climate change and the need to protect what most religions see as "the gift of creation."


Uhl said the time had come for an encyclical, the highest form of papal writing, on what he called "the future of creation." He said it would "energize" Catholics, other believers and world opinion on climate change.

Bishop Christopher Toohey of Australia said believers should "have the courage and motivation under God's grace to do what we need to do to safeguard this garden planet."

Elias Abramides, a Greek Orthodox member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), told the gathering climate change was a "deeply spiritual issue" rooted in the scriptures.

"We believe that the solutions to the problem will not only be of a political, technological and economic nature. We believe that ethics and religion will necessarily become essential components on which the solutions will be based," he said.

"As Christians ... we need to recognize and accept the intimate ethical and deeply religious implications of climate change. It is a matter of justice, it is a matter of equity, and it is a matter of love: love for God the Almighty, love for the neighbor, love for creation," Abramides said.

The WCC groups some 550 million Christians from 340 non-Catholic Christian churches, denominations and fellowships.

Comment: Two must-read SOTT Focus pieces on climate change: Wake the World Up Campaign and Climate Change Swindlers and the Political Agenda.