Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg meets Pope Francis ahead of protest

Thunberg, who is 16, has become a star of the global green movement.

April 17, 2019, 8:22 AM

LONDON -- Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg met the pope in Rome Wednesday ahead of a youth rally against climate change this week.

Thunberg, 16, met Pope Francis at the end of his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, shaking hands with the pontiff and showing him a banner adorned with the slogan "Join the Climate Strike."

"The Holy Father thanked and encouraged Greta Thunberg for her commitment in defense of the environment, and in turn Greta, who had requested the meeting, thanked the Holy Father for his great commitment in defense of creation," the director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, told reporters about the meeting Wednesday morning in the Vatican.

The teenage climate change activist rose to worldwide fame after addressing the United Nations climate change summit in Poland at the age of 15 in August. She has since become one of the most influential leaders in the worldwide School Strike for Climate movement, also known as Fridays for Future.

After Thunberg embarked on a solo climate change protest at her school in Sweden in August, a movement spread. Thousands of students have joined her in protesting in over 1,325 places in 98 countries over the past six months, according to Thunberg.

Thunberg was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by three Norwegian lawmakers in March for her services to environmental campaigning. In response to the news, she said she was "honored and grateful."

Thunberg is in Rome ahead of another youth climate strike scheduled for Friday, which is expected to draw huge crowds as her activities garner more and more media coverage around the globe. Over 1.6 million people from 131 countries took part at the last "School Strike for Climate" global protest on March 15, in which schoolchildren boycott their school day, according to the Fridays for Future website.

"Youth throughout the world are voicing what many people are feeling: that national leaders simply must do more if we're going to have any chance at achieving our collective goal under the Paris Agreement of limiting climate change to 1.5C.," Patricia Espinosa the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change told ABC News. "These youth understand just how urgent it is that we find solutions; after all, our window of opportunity is closing rapidly."

Thunberg's meeting with the Pope followed a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, where she told European politicians that "cathedral thinking" was needed in order to tackle climate change, in apparent reference to the fire at Notre Dame.

"It is still not too late to act," she told lawmakers, according to The Guardian. "It will take a far-reaching vision. It will take courage, it will take fierce, fierce determination to act now . I ask you to please wake up and make changes required possible."

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