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Pope tackles climate change head-on in address to oil executives

Pope Francis greets the audience during the Weekly General Audience. Photo: Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pope Francis on Saturday told oil executives and other key energy sector figures at the Vatican that the world’s transformation to clean energy was an "epochal" challenge, and that companies' continued search for new sources of fossil fuels was "even more worrying" than the already high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Why it matters: Pope Francis, one of the most recognized figures in the world, is helping to fill the void in climate leadership that was left when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate. The talks he called address what might be the central issue of the climate debate head on: that the energy companies that helped produce much of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere must also be a central part of any solution to the problem.