The pope, 83, was responding to whether he believed coronavirus could spur ecological conversion, the idea for people to lead more environmentally conscious lives through the understanding that the natural world is a creation of God.
Pope Francis said the world had yet to respond to recent “partial catastrophes” related to the climate.
“There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives,’” the pope said in an interview published Wednesday in The Tablet, a United Kingdom-based Catholic weekly.
“Who now speaks of the fires in Australia, or remembers that 18 months ago a boat could cross the North Pole because the glaciers had all melted?” he asked.
“Who speaks now of the floods? I don’t know if these are the revenge of nature, but they are certainly nature’s responses.”
The pope went on to say he believed the COVID-19 outbreak that has ravaged the globe could inspire change.
“This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it,” he said.
With more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported across the world, the pope said the virus has shined a “spotlight on hypocrisy” as large outbreaks continue to in the United States and parts of Europe.
“This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy,” he said.
“I am worried by the hypocrisy of certain political personalities who speak of facing up to the crisis, of the problem of hunger in the world, but who in the meantime manufacture weapons.”
The Vatican shuttered Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica to the public as the virus proliferated through Italy in early March.
The pope said members of the Vatican administration were still working while practicing social distancing.
“The Curia is trying to carry on its work and to live normally, organizing in shifts so that not everyone is present at the same time,” he said. “It’s been well thought out. We are sticking to the measures ordered by the health authorities.”
The pope said he wanted a response from world leaders that focuses more on humans and the environment than the economy.
“I believe we have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world,” he said. “We need to reconnect with our real surroundings. This is the opportunity for conversion.”