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Enough with fossil fuels, Pope says in latest climate appeal

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis meets with bishops and delegates of the Synodal Path, at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The world must rapidly ditch fossil fuels and end "the senseless war against creation", Pope Francis said on Thursday, in a fresh plea over climate change that called on people to repent for their "ecological sins".

Francis has made the protection of the environment a cornerstone of his pontificate, noting in his landmark 2015 "Laudato Si" (Praised Be) encyclical that the planet was "beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth".

In a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, he said a U.N. climate summit meeting in Dubai on Nov. 30-Dec.12 "must listen to science and institute a rapid and equitable transition to end the era of fossil fuel".

"According to the commitments undertaken in the Paris Agreement to restrain global warming, it is absurd to permit the continued exploration and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructures," he added.

"The unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests are pushing temperatures higher and leading to massive droughts," Francis said, also criticising oil and gas fracking and "unchecked mega-mining projects".

Francis, an Argentine who is the first pope to hail from the so-called Global South, denounced global inequalities and said that "consumerist greed, fuelled by selfish hearts, is disrupting the planet's water cycle".

Through the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Catholics are urged to offer special prayers for the planet. It is observed on Sept. 1, but it is customary for the papal message linked to it to be released months in advance.

As well as quoting from "Laudato Si", the document cites previous popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, indicating that Francis' pro-environment focus stands in continuity with his more conservative predecessors.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Crispian Balmer and Sharon Singleton)