VATICAN CITY – The Gospel leads Catholics to work for justice and peace and the protection of the environment, but the challenges are so great that work with members of other religions and people of goodwill are essential, Pope Francis said.

"Care for our common home and fraternity and social friendship" are paths that "originate in the Gospel of Christ, but they are paths on which we can walk together with many men and women of other Christian denominations, of other religions and even without any particular religious affiliation," the Pope said.

Pope Francis' encouragement for collaboration was part of a message he gave Nov. 17 to the justice and peace officers of national and regional bishops' conferences and religious orders.  

The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development was holding an online meeting Nov. 17 with representatives of justice and peace commissions from Europe, Oceania, Africa and Asia, and Nov. 18 with their counterparts in Latin America, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States.

The dicastery said the meetings were designed to promote collaboration between the local commissions and the Vatican office, "take stock" of the national and regional challenges to justice, peace and the integrity of creation and to "encourage the creation of a network of these commissions, including through the exchange of experiences and good practices."

Pope Francis said the commissions "have the task of spreading and making known the Church's social doctrine, working actively for the protection of the dignity of the human person and his or her rights, with a preferential option for the poor and the least."

Advocating for "social, economic and ecological justice, and to the building of peace," he said, the commissions can draw from his encyclicals "Laudato Si'" on integral ecology and on "Fratelli Tutti" on fraternity as they seek to address local issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic, he said, "has revealed numerous contradictions in the economic and political system, while unresolved challenges persist that require the joint efforts of many actors. I urge you, therefore, to address these issues also in collaboration with other ecclesial and civil realities – local, regional and international – committed to the promotion of justice and peace."