No ivory for the church

If you’ve ever wondered where the Catholic Church stands on the unsavory use of ivory in religious objects, you now have an answer.

Last fall, a reporter with National Geographic wrote the Vatican to inquire about the church’s stance on using ivory to construct crucifixes and other devotional objects. Last week, he published a blog post on the organization’s website saying that the Pope’s spokesman, the Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, had not yet responded. You can read the original letter and the author’s follow-up attempts here.

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Now, Lombardi has responded in a rather lengthy piece of correspondence (addressed to “Dear Mr. Oliver Payne, Dear friends of the elephants”) with some corrections to the original article, an assurance that gift shops at St. Peter’s do not sell objects made of ivory, and proclaimed that the church does not look kindly upon the slaughter of elephants. He offered three ways that the church might help slow the demise of elephants: “To bring this issue to the attention of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace[;] To propose to the sections of Vatican Radio that prepare programming for Africa (in English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili) to investigate into this topic and to speak about it in radio programs [; and] To make the contributions of the research of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on environmental issues and biodiversity more widely known.” You can read the full letter here.

So there you have it. The Catholic Church does, in fact, look down upon the mass slaughter of endangered animals for commercial gain.

Michael J. O’Loughlin

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