With the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the upcoming enclave to elective a successor Pontiff, it is paramount that the College of Cardinals remain mindful of the environmental legacy of Pope Benedict and the need to continue and advance his work.
Pope Benedict XVI, John Ratzinger, is a strong champion of the environment as evidenced by his words and actions. In his speeches and writings, he called for both Catholics and people of “good will” to care for creation. He prompted the installation of solar panels on the roof of Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, and he authorized the Vatican’s bank to purchase carbon credits through funding of a Hungarian forest, resulting in Vatican City being the only country that is totally carbon neutral. Additionally, Benedict adopted the use of the hybrid, partially electric Popemobile. Pope Benedict’s commitment to the environment is based on spirituality, as well as morality, thereby making his mission a universal one and prompting the environmental community to acknowledge the Catholic Church as an ally in the green movement.
It is noteworthy that Pope Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, also was committed to the environment. In many of his speeches and writings, he remarked on the principle of “stewardship” and the consequences of failure to address “problems stemming from globalization of the economy and the worsening of the ‘ecological question‘ “.
As these Pontiffs have set the stage for the inclusion of the environment in the work of the Vatican, it is so important that this legacy continues and grows. This could be especially beneficial to the Catholic Church in light of its status in the world today. Faced with distractions from its good work by criticism of its handling of sexual abuse and pedophilia within its realm and corruption extending into its inner circle, the Vatican needs a game changer. Inasmuch as the younger generation (millennial) appears to be more committed to the green movement (as evidenced by their greater efforts as compared to older generations to recycle, buy local and to reduce their ingestion of meat), the election of a successor Pope strongly committed to the environment presents an excellent opportunity for outreach to young people g
globally, who have left the Catholic Church. Additionally, the issue of the environment is a global one, which also tends to be more attractive to the younger generations, particularly in the United States, which has witnessed an increased apathy of young people towards many institutions in America, such as church and government, largely due to the toxic state of politics in this country.
The Catholic Church is the one organization that has a global presence. Whether Catholic or not, we all listen to the messages and doctrines coming from the Vatican, and we look to the Church for guidance on most issues. This acknowledgment of the Church as a major player in world matters positions the it to be not just a voice on the environment, but also to be a leader in this effort. We hope this will be recognized by the College of Cardinals in their election of their new leader. Having a green Pope at the helm of the Catholic Church definitely inspires us to live green, be green.
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