Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was among about 60 mayors from around the world who heard from Pope Francis Tuesday in Rome, at a conference focusing on climate change and human trafficking. They were chosen to attend the conference because they support Pope Francis' environmental message, the Associated Press reports.
The pope spoke for about 15 minutes to the group, telling them that humans are causing “destruction” by “not taking care of human ecology and not having an ecological conscience," according to the Star Tribune.
In a series of phone interviews after the conference, Hodges said she was deeply moved by the pope's remarks.
“It was a profound experience,” she told WCCO. “He is a very powerful presence, quietly powerful presence.”
Pope Francis has become a hero to the environmental movement after he released an encyclical last month that calls for the entire world to take bold action to reduce global warming, which he said disproportionately affects the poor.
Another of the pope's priorities is to raise awareness about human trafficking.
The Vatican conference aims to show how the two issues are related, the Associated Press notes: The Earth and its most vulnerable people are being exploited, and climate change triggers more frequent natural disasters that create "environmental refugees" who are forced from their homes.
"I can see why he inspires people," Hodges told the Star Tribune. "It’s in part because he’s very human, he’s very relatable and he also cares a great, great deal about human beings."
Earlier in the day, about 35 participants spoke to the assembly on the issues, including California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Both of them urged the attendees to pressure their national leaders to agree to aggressive action when they meet in Paris later this year to discuss climate change.
After the pope concluded his remarks, he signed a declaration that states that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity,” according to the final declaration seen by the Associated Press.
Mayors also signed a statement against human trafficking.
The Star Tribune notes that Hodges has made environmental issues a central theme of her administration. Her trip to Rome was paid for by the conference, according to the newspaper.