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World: Pope to young people: We need you to protect environment

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday praised young people for their efforts to protect the Earth’s environment and told them to “be the critical conscience of society.”

Pope Francis delivers his speech as he celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) © Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis delivers his speech as he celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, filled with hundreds of young faithful, to mark a church day focused on youth in dioceses worldwide.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) © Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

“You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task,'' the pontiff said, ”to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing."

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Francis expressed thanks “for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God's creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing.”

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini) © Provided by Associated Press Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the occasion of the Christ the King festivity, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

He noted that many young people have criticized environmental contamination.

“We need this,” Francis said.

The pontiff said that in a world that “thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream.”

“Be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society," Francis exhorted young people.

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Social justice and care of the environment have been key messages of his papacy.

The pope is expected to meet with young people from all over the world at the Catholic church’s jamboree in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023.

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