Monday, August 17, 2009

Author sheds light on pope’s greenness

To the surprise of many, the pontiff is a strong environmentalist

By Emily Smith
The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: Monday, Aug 17, 2009

Even some of the most devout Catholics are astonished to learn that Pope Benedict XVI powers his home in Germany by solar panels.

Although snippets of environmentalism have snuck into many of the pontiff’s speeches and writings, Catholic Eugene author Woodeene Koenig-Bricker, 57, was as surprised as anyone to learn of the pope’s fierce environmental advocacy, which she sheds light on in her new book, “Ten Commandments for the Environment.”

The notion of a green papacy is unfamiliar to most, she said.

“People expect the pope to talk about God, sex and marriage,” she said. “So the environment comes as a surprise to people.”

The pope’s latest encyclical, a letter to bishops, touches on his own 10 commandments for the environment, but is hardly succinct, the author said. So, her book serves to enlighten on the pope’s message and his own history with environmentally sound practices.

For instance, the Vatican set out to become the first carbon-neutral nation-state in the world just more than two years ago. In taking strides toward that goal, it has been outfitted with solar panels and has begun a reforestation project in Hungary.

And, of course, there’s Pope Benedict’s own home in Germany, which, like the Vatican, is heated by solar panels.

For a world leader — and a religious figurehead at that — to lead by example, not just pontificating, sets a new precedent for leadership, she said.

“Yes, he’s a theologian, but he’s also practical,” she said.

The environment was not a burning passion of Koenig-Bricker’s when she and her editor first discussed the pope’s work as a book idea. But, she said, researching and writing about the green papacy led her to take the pope’s message to heart.

“It forced me to change my life,” she said.


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