Pope Francis emphasized the "right of the environment" and human responsibility to protect nature during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Friday. "We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it," Francis said.

The pope also touched on issues related to war, poverty, nuclear proliferation and human exploitation, calling on world leaders to commit themselves to enacting concrete measures to work toward the greater good, and fight on behalf of the world's most disadvantaged. He sought to draw out environmental destruction's harm to the world's most vulnerable. “Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity,” Francis said.


It was the fifth papal visit to the U.N. in history, and the first visit in more than seven years. The trip came as the U.N. marked its 70th anniversary and member states prepared to make decisions about sustainable development, climate change and global peace. The Secretary-General hoped the pope’s visit would inspire the international community to boost its efforts in support of social justice and tolerance, the U.N. said in a statement. 



Francis was expected to meet privately with leaders in the U.N. following his speech in front of the General Assembly gathering of world leaders, and he met before the speech with a room of U.N. staff members. The General Assembly meeting was expected to be the largest gathering of world leaders since the U.N.'s founding. 

Francis has repeatedly stressed a message of compassion and global justice. He has emphasized the importance of aiding hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees who have sought refuge in Europe, many of them fleeing war in Syria. He has also emphasized the importance of environment and economic justice, meeting with residents of a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter for lunch Thursday.

Francis planned to speak Friday at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City in front of an interfaith audience. Although previous popes have held interfaith events during their tours of the U.S., Francis was expected to hold a uniquely inclusive service, as leaders from other faith communities, including Muslims and Jews, were expected to speak alongside the pope.