Pope Francis met delegates from South America this month to discuss the oil and gas drilling plans proposed by corporations in the region. He announced he will soon start to work on an encyclical on the environment.
The pope met Fernando Solanas, a politician in his native Argentina, to talk about the environmental threats the country was facing. The Argentinean government announced in September that a deal had been reached between Chevron and state oil company YPF to exploit oil and gas in the south.
The agreement has since been opposed by indigenous people, workers and environmentalists, who have complained about the risk of water contamination posed by fracking and Chevron’s negative record on human rights.
Solanas, who is the leader of the centre-left party Proyecto Sur, wrote a letter to the pope expressing his concern over environmental damage and social issues that could come from the exploitation of Argentina.
The pope visited Solanas and posed for a picture holding an anti-fracking T-shirt, along with one that bore the slogan, “Water is more precious than gold.”
He told the Argentinean delegates that he was preparing an encyclical — a letter for Catholic guidance – about nature, humans and environmental issues.
After the meeting, Solanas told the Italian press, “The pope is very sensitive. He told me he is working on an encyclical about these issues and he has created a group of experts to help him.
“He is particularly concerned about water. He told me that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the next war would start because of it and he recalled the disastrous situation in Africa. He was very worried because if you put profits first, everything else is razed.”
In the UK, Lord Browne, chairman of fracking firm Cuadrilla, floored public opinion as he claimed shale gas in Britain will not make energy bills cheaper. David Cameron, George Osborne and a number of other political figures had initially said it would.