ROME (AP) — Pope Francis warned Thursday that the world is “on a path of self-destruction” if political leaders fail to courageously use the COVID-19 pandemic as a chance to make the planet a fairer and greener place.

In a video message released on World Earth Day, Francis said political leaders have an opportunity to “come out better” following lessons learned about the social injustices laid bare during the pandemic.

“Both global catastrophes, COVID and the climate, show that we don’t have time to waste," Francis said. “Time is pressing on us and, as COVID-19 has shown, we do have the means to meet the challenge. We have the means. It’s time to act, we’re at the limit.”

Francis has made his environmental appeal a hallmark of his papacy, denouncing how wealthy countries have plundered God’s creation for profit at the expense of poor and indigenous peoples.

In his message, Francis said the adversity humanity has faced in the pandemic should drive leaders to pursue innovation and invention to better protect the planet.

He appealed to “all leaders of the world: to act boldly, act fairly, and always tell the truth to people, so that people know how to protect themselves from the destruction of the planet and how to protect the planet from the destruction that many times we trigger.”

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