Pope urges lifestyle changes to save environment

VATICAN CITY Fri Jan 1, 2010 1:17pm EST

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 1, 2010. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican January 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Remo Casilli

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict used his traditional New Year address on Friday to call on people to change their lifestyles to save the planet, saying environmental responsibility was essential for global peace.

Recalling that world leaders had gathered in Copenhagen last month for the U.N. climate conference, the pope said action at a personal and community level was just as important to safeguard the environment.

"Nevertheless, in this moment, I would like to underline the importance of the choices of individuals, families and local administrations in preserving the environment," the Pope told the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"An objective shared by all, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of overseeing the earth's natural resources with justice and wisdom."

The pope, who had a scare last week when a woman with a history of mental problems knocked him down during Christmas Eve mass, also said "ecological responsibility" should be taught as part of the education syllabus.

The pope and his predecessor John Paul have put the Vatican firmly on an environmentalist footing. Last month, in a message sent to heads of state and international organizations, the pope called on rich nations to acknowledge responsibility for the environmental crisis and shed consumerism.

(Writing by Deepa Babington, editing by Tim Pearce)

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