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By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, June 17 (Reuters) - The Vatican will host a major gathering of world religious leaders and scientists ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November in Britain to take a common stand at "a key moment in the history of humanity".
The Oct. 4 conference, called "Faith and Science: Towards COP26," is being organised by Britain and Italy. It will bring together some 40 leaders from the world's major religions and 10 scientists and issue a joint appeal for COP26.
At a news conference on Thursday presenting the Oct. 4 event, the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said religious leaders should press their politicians to make courageous, ambitious decisions at the U.N. conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
"The contribution that we hope that religious leaders will make through the conference on Oct. 4 and in the coming months will be to raise the ambition of our political leaders," Gallagher said.
He said the religious leaders should urge "our statesmen and women to be able to grasp the nettle, see the issues and make courageous decisions".
Gallagher, who is British, said he expected Pope Francis to participate in the Oct. 4 meeting taking place at the Vatican and in Rome.
Francis has been invited to participate at the COP26 in Glasgow, but Gallagher would not be drawn on whether the pope will go. Other Vatican officials have indicated that he most likely would.
"COP26 will perhaps be a key moment in the history of humanity," Gallagher said.
"There will be difficult choices to be made and we hope that with God's grace, that we will have the courage to make those choices and to move forward on these issues which will determine what life will be like on our planet in the coming decades and centuries," he said.
Francis strongly supports the goals of the 2015 U.N. Paris accord to reduce global warming. In 2015, he wrote an encyclical on the need to protect the environment, reduce wasteful lifestyles, stem global warming and protect the poor from the effects of climate change. (Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Barbara Lewis)