VATICAN CITY (RNS) — In an online conversation with former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday (Sept. 18), Pope Francis stressed the importance of people and nations coming together to care for the environment and to put an end to global conflicts.
“It’s time to shift toward peace and brotherhood. It’s time to put down the weapons and return to dialogue, to diplomacy. Let us cease the pursuit of conquest and military aggression. That’s why I repeat: no to war!” the pope said, answering a question by the former U.S. president.
The conversation between the political and spiritual leaders was livestreamed at the 2023 meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, taking place in New York City Sept. 18-19. The event seeks to address urgent global issues, such as climate change and the flow of refugees.
To these challenges, Francis added another: “the wind of war that blows throughout the world,” fueling what he described as “the Third World War, fought piecemeal.”
The pope urged all nations to take responsibility and stressed that “no challenge can be faced alone — only together, sisters and brothers, children of God,” he said.
Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for peace following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has sought a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. He appointed Cardinal Matteo Zuppi as a peace envoy to meet with the main stakeholders in the war, including President Joe Biden in July.
In his message, the pope also stated that “it is time to work together to stop the ecological catastrophe, before it is too late,” and repeated his intention to publish a new version of his “green” encyclical, “Laudato Si,” for the care and protection of the environment.
Clinton said he had a “wonderful meeting” with the pope at the Vatican in early July.
“You make us all feel empowered and that is perhaps your greatest power as the pope,” Clinton said during the conference. “You make everybody, even those who aren’t members of the Catholic Church, feel like they have power and share in the responsibility.”
The Clinton Global Initiative was created by Bill Clinton in 2005 and collaborates with over 10,000 organizations aiming to provide actionable solutions to global challenges.
Among the main reasons for the online meeting was raising awareness for the Pediatric Hospital Bambino Gesù, commonly referred to as the “pope’s hospital.” The pope spoke of the care that the hospital provides despite its small size, including helping Ukrainian children fleeing the conflict.
“There are illnesses that cannot be cured, but there are no children that cannot be cared for,” he said.