Perspectives on the “Green Pope”

by | Feb 21, 2013 | Justice and Peace

In the midst of many commentaries on Benedict’s contributions and legacy this article speaks of  a little recognized contribution.Benedict brought ‘a theology of the earth’ to the environmental movement according to Brian Roewe  in  Eco Catholic

He writes…Deemed the “green pope” by many, Benedict, 85, has spoken often of the need for greater care for creation among Catholics, Christians and people of all faiths around the world.

His voice in the environmental movement has emphasized the environment as a gift from God, and that its protection in the present and conservation for the future are a moral requirement. Under Benedict, the Vatican has gone as far as declaringpollution among the “social” sins [1] impacting the modern world.

In its Feb. 13 newsletter, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change highlighted Benedict’s reaffirmation of many traditional ecological church teachings, including “the giftedness of creation, the vocation of stewardship and the universal destination of created goods.” They also cited his advocating on issues such as an international climate treaty and renewable energy technologies, as well as attention to environmental refugees.

The article continues … Most notably, Benedict focused his 2010 World Day of Peace message specifically to the message of conservation as a moral requirement and a path to peace. Titled “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” Benedict spoke of addressing the environment as a pivotal step toward ending human conflict:

“Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because ‘creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works,’ and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific coexistence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development — wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect — if not downright misuse — of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen ‘that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.”

Apart from his writings Brian Roewe points out his actions  in making  Vatican City as the world’s greenest state [4], producing 200 watts of solar energy per inhabitant. No doubt that its minute population (900) and small geographic footprint (.2 square miles) aided its case; in comparison, Germany, second in solar per-capita at the time, produced 80 watts per inhabitant.

Benedict oversaw the implementation of numerous sustainable and energy-efficient projects during his pontificate. In Sept. 2008, the Vatican began installation of 2,700 solar panels [3] on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium. A year later, the city-state announced plans for building Europe’s largest solar power plant, estimated to cost $660 million.

Benedict has also made a point of speaking or releasing statements before international climate and sustainability conferences convene, most recently in June before the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org.]

SolarPanelsSolar panels are seen on the roof of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. Installed in 2010, the 2,400 panels were one of the eco-initiatives undertaken during Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Links:
[1] http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/the-vatican-declares-pollution-one-of-the-most-deadly-modern-sins.html
[2] http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/amid-sandy-symposium-pairs-papal-teaching-and-climate-change
[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7642811.stm
[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/vatican-is-worlds-greenest-state-official-daily-2158560.html

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