Pope Benedict XVI says environment has been undervalued by Catholics
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
August 7, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI, who has arguably been the most vocal Pope on environmental concerns, told 400 priests in a closed meeting in Northern Italy that "God entrusted man with the responsibility of creation".

Denying that environmental degradation was partially a product of Christian teaching—for example the belief that God gave man dominion over the earth—instead the Pope said that the destruction of the environment was primarily due to materialism: living in a "materialistic world" where "God is denied" has led to the environment's current state.

"In a world closed in on its materialism," the Pope commented. "It is easier for the human being to make himself the dictator of all other creatures and of nature."

Deforestation and erosion in Madagascar; truck carrying coal in Wesern China. Photos by Rhett A. Butler
The Pope cited St. Francis of Assisi as an example for Catholics of a man who lived "a way of life that is respectful of the environment." Francis of Assisi was the creator of the monastic order the Franciscans, who practice an ascetic life and take a vow of poverty. Francis was also known as the patron saint of animals; many tales tell of his affinity for wildlife.

This is not the first time the Pope has spoken about the environment. He has called the need to confront climate change a "moral obligation". In March, the Pope made environmental destruction one of his new seven sins. At the time he said, "Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world's mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption." The Pope also included excessive wealth and the creation of poverty amongst the new seven sins.

The Pope has faced criticism from some ecologists who state that the Catholic Church's stance against contraception has helped fuel an overpopulated world. Overpopulation is considered by most environmentalists to be one of the overarching causes of environmental destruction.

The Pope's comments were relayed to the press in the Vatican. There are over 1.1 billion Catholics in the world, the largest sect of Christianity. Many of these Catholics live in developing nations (for example over 130 million people in Brazil are Catholic) where poverty and environmental issues are paramount.

Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com (August 07, 2008).

Pope Benedict XVI says environment has been undervalued by Catholics.