Three Hail Marys and oh yes, go green

In case you needed another reason to go green...

If you've recently found yourself turning down your thermostat, trading out your old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs, or cutting back on your car travel, then you already know that reducing emissions is not just good for the environment, but is a major boon for your pocketbook. However, according to the Vatican, it might just save your soul.

The Catholic Church recently declared that polluting the environment is not just a political and economic no-no, but is also a major sin. Last weekend, Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, second-in-command of the Apostolic Penitentiary, released a list of seven activities that the Catholic Church now officially considers to be sinful. The fourth item on the list, "polluting the environment," seems a natural outgrowth of several statements by Pope Benedict over the last year.

Beginning in 2007, he has made the pursuit of green technology a central point of his pontificate, stating that humankind must "respect creation" and focus "on the needs of the environment." The head of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace amplified the Pope's words, noting that "The mastery of man over Creation must not be despotic or senseless. Man must cultivate and safeguard God's creation." In other words, by placing the environment within the context of man's responsibility, the Catholic Church has declared that environmental waste is not only irresponsible or unethical, but fundamentally immoral.

Over the past few years, the Vatican has aggressively pursued its own green agenda, pursuing the use of renewable energy resources and reducing the environmental impact of its activities. In 1999, the Church cut the energy consumption of Saint Peter's Basilica by a massive 40% by using low-impact lighting and energy-saving bulbs. In 2000, it followed this up with the installation of an electric vehicle recharging station, which was equipped to recharge electric scooters and cars. Pope John Paul II personally used an electric scooter to move around his residence at Castel Gandolfo, and the Church has looked into broadening the use of electric cars throughout the Vatican City. In its most recent green move, the Catholic Church is installing photovoltaic cells over the massive Paul VI Audience Hall, and is planning to expand the use of solar power to many of its other facilities.

Regardless of anything else, there is a certain poetic beauty in a major religion choosing to derive its energy from the sun!

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