ASSISI, Italy (Reuters) - Hundreds of people braved driving rain on Sunday night to see pictures of Amazonia by famed Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado beamed onto the Basilica of St. Francis and to hear him talk of the danger facing the area.
The black-and-white photographs showed native peoples of the Amazon as sombre classical music by 20th century Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos played in what almost seemed like a requiem for the parts of the Amazon that have already been lost to deforestation and mining.
Salgado, addressing the crowd, said it was “the predatory economic model that is everywhere in the world. Our agricultural system, our industrial system, our consumption system that has caused the destruction of the Amazon”.
The Assisi event, one of many being held around the world to draw attention to climate change and other environmental issues, took place on the eve of the climate summit at the United Nations.
St. Francis wrote the Canticle of the Sun, a prayer in praise of creation that refers to Brother Sun and Sister Moon and is a reference point for Catholic and non-Catholic environmentalists.
Salgado said he had worked on this photography project for the past seven years and had lived among 12 tribes in the Amazon.
He said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro could not be held totally responsible for the destruction of the Amazon because it had started decades ago. But he faulted the president for farming policies that he said had sped up the process.
Pope Francis, who took his name from the Roman Catholic saint and has made many appeals for protection of the environment, wrote a major document known as an encyclical in 2015 named “Laudato Si,” (Praised Be), the words that start several of the stanzas of the saint’s famous prayer.
Amazonian Catholic bishops are due to meet at the Vatican next month to discuss the Church’s future in the region. Salgado welcomed the holding of the meeting and said it should discuss ways to introduce a lasting economic model to protect the rainforest.
“Otherwise, it will never be protected. We will lose the forest. It may be in 10 years or it may be in 20 years, but we will lose it,” he said.
Reporting by Antonio Denti; Additional reporting by Oriana Boselli; Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson