Ecuador is rich in natural resources and Pope Francis encouraged the country’s residents to keep it that way. Calling for the protection of the Amazon rain forest and indigenous people, Pope Francis said resisting short-term gain was essential. In so doing, he rebuked the current plans of Ecuador president Rafael Correa.
Francis invoked a biblical statute that protecting creation is crucial and he further praised the indigenous people of the region who have been fighting Correa’s plan to expand oil exploration in Ecuador. “As stewards of these riches which we have received,” Francis said, “we have an obligation to society as a whole, and toward future generations.”
After releasing the “Laudato Si” last month, his environmental encyclical, it was expected the Pope would address the exploitation of the Amazon in his speeches. The encyclical calls on governments around the world to save our “common home” and makes it particularly the responsibility of Catholics to take up the cause of fighting against climate change. He also highlighted the “link between environmental destruction and the plight of the poor, including indigenous groups in South America,” according to the New York Times.
Ecuador uses revenue from oil to run the government. President Correa has approved requests for expansion of oil exploration into the Ecuadorean Amazon — including inside Yasuni National Park, one of the most extreme examples of true biodiversity in the world. Correa hasn’t been without ideas to help protect the rainforest; in 2007, he suggested Ecuador would leave the oil in the ground if other governments around the world would contribute to a $3.6 billion “trust fund” that would protect the 4,000 square miles of rainforest. When other governments would not contribute, Mr. Correa ended the moratorium on exploration and started to approve applications for new oil production.
Activists in Ecuador have asked for Pope Francis to intervene directly with President Correa. Without specifically calling the president out, Francis cited his own work and asked Ecuador to work with other countries bordering the Amazon to protect this precious resource.