VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis hailed the “historic” climate change agreement signed in Paris, urging the international community to swiftly implement the deal.

Speaking to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday (Dec. 13), Francis called on world leaders to act on the unprecedented environmental agreement signed on Saturday by nearly 200 countries.

“The conference on climate has just finished in Paris with the adoption of an agreement, defined by many as historic. Carrying it out will require a unanimous commitment and generous dedication on everyone’s part,” he said.

Under the agreement, nations have promised to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2.0 C (3.6 F), seen as vital by scientists to significantly slow the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Reflecting on the deal, the pontiff also urged governments to focus their attention on those most in need of protection: “Hoping that particular attention is guaranteed for the most vulnerable populations, I urge the entire international community to continue promptly on the path undertaken, in a sign of solidarity that becomes ever more effective.”

During his papacy Francis has become a vocal advocate for action on climate change, in June releasing an encyclical specifically focusing on the environment. In the text the pope strongly criticized wealthy nations for what he saw as the exploitation of poorer countries, with practices that have damaged the environment and made people increasingly vulnerable to climate change.

Meanwhile there have been reports Francis personally intervened to push the December climate change deal through. According to claims reported by the BBC, the pope phoned the president of Nicaragua to convince him to sign the deal.

In addition to the rumor, the Vatican sent a delegation to the United Nations’ 2015 Paris Climate Conference, known as COP21, and made its position clear by projecting photographs of nature onto St. Peter’s Basilica. The stunning images from some of the world’s top photographers were beamed around the world on Dec. 8, with the show named “Fiat Lux” (”Let there be light”) — the words spoken by God in Genesis on the creation of the world.

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