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Tributes paid to retiring Pope's green commitment

February 19, 2013:

Pope Benedict XVI was often referred to as 'the green pope' for his commitment to the environment.

Tributes have been paid to Pope Benedict XVI following the surprise announcement of his resignation, including many appreciations of his contribution to the ecological role of the Catholic Church.

This was made particularly clear in his third encyclical 'Caritas in Veritate' (2009) when, among other observations on prevailing economic and social attitudes, he observed:

"Our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment, and damages society."

An interestingly detailed appreciation can be found in the influential Catholic Ecology blog, written by US environmental regulator William L. Patenaude. The author, who has an MA in Theology, looks at the part environmentalism played in the theological development of Joseph Ratzinger, who would go on to become Pope Benedict XVI, and how this built on the foundations laid by Pope John Paul II to take the church even further forward in its thinking about protecting God's creation.

Writing a week after the resignation was announced, Patenaude pays a farewell tribute to 'the once and future "green pope" ', beginning with these words:

My writings on the Catholic perspective of ecology owe much to Pope Benedict XVI. This blog in particular has provided a real-time examination of the pontiff’s words and deeds related to abiding by and protecting nature.

"A clear and lasting legacy of Pope Benedict XVI will be his consistent and prophetic voice–as well as his leadership by example–on environmental issues, particularly his concern about climate change and its impacts on the planet and poor and vulnerable people" - Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
And now—with the sudden and shocking news of his renouncing the Chair of Peter—we Catholic ecologists must say farewell to a pontiff that not only followed his predecessor’s ecological thought and practice, but escalated them well beyond what anyone had ever expected.

Indeed, Benedict XVI has been called the green pope by more than one news outlet. The question is, why this interest in ecology?

I have written many posts that examine that question. But here I think it’s helpful to examine that question by looking back on the development of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological and pastoral formation. In doing so, we find clues that make clear why this man spent so much of his pontificate speaking about a new reality for the human race: the destruction of our natural environment.

Read the whole text of this thorough blog entry here.


A clear and lasting legacy

The US-based Catholic Coalition on Climate Change has also paid tribute to the 'Green Pope's commitment to environmental issues. In its latest newsletter it says:

"A clear and lasting legacy of Pope Benedict XVI will be his consistent and prophetic voice–as well as his leadership by example–on environmental issues, particularly his concern about climate change and its impacts on the planet and poor and vulnerable people.

"The Coalition and its partners will be forever indebted to Pope Benedict XVI for his witness."

The Coalition has published a resource bibliography of the documents in which Pope Benedict addresses climate change.



Read about a new Catholic Green Pilgrimage Handbook specially prepared for the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro here.

Read Listening to the Earth, a Benedictine environmental handbook produced in 2007 here.

Read an edited version of The Call of Creation, a Catholic statement on the environment issued in 2002 here.

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