Pope Francis worries about Amazon fires

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — Pope Francis expressed worry about the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest, which researchers have said is burning at a record rate.

“We pray that, with everyone's commitment, they may be tamed as soon as possible. That forest lung is vital to our planet,” Francis said Sunday during his Angelus address at Piazza San Pedro in Vatican City.

The pontiff, head of Catholicism which has over a billion adherents, has been vocal about climate change, releasing a landmark encyclical in 2015 called “Laudato Si” which chastises humanity’s blind worship of technology and reliance on fossil fuels.

The fires in the rainforest — often referred to as the planet’s lungs as it produces 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen — are burning at the highest rate since the Brazil’s space research center, the National Institute for Space Research, began tracking them in 2013.

Environmental organizations and researchers have said that the wildfires blazing in the Brazilian rainforest were set by cattle ranchers and loggers who want to clear and utilize the land, emboldened by the country's pro-business president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, spanning eight countries and covering 40 percent of South America. More than 30 million people live in the Amazon, which is also home to large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, most of them unique to the region. A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days.

An inferno in the Amazon, two-thirds of which is in Brazil, threatens the rainforest ecosystem and also affects the entire globe.

CNN Philippines Multi-platform News Writer Xave Gregorio, and CNN’s Jessie Yeung, Able Alvarado and Susan Scutti contributed to this report.