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The Pope Urges Tourists to Think Green - and installs solar panels at the Vatican

October 3 2008:

St. Peter's Basilica is seen in the background of a solar panel set up on the roof of the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. A total of 2700 panels will provide 300,000 kilowatt hours which will be used to illuminate, heat and cool the 6,300-seat hall where the pontiff holds general audiences. AP Picture.

Last Saturday the Pope returned to the theme of respect for God's creation in an address marking the UN's World Tourism day. And two days later workers started installing 2,700 solar panels on the roof of the Vatican's Paul VI auditorium, which will save the equivalent of 35 tonnes of oil every week during the cold season.

"It is up to new generations to promote a healthy tourism that prohibits consumerism and the waste of the earth's resources, to make room for gestures of solidarity and friendship, of knowledge and understanding." Pope Benedict XVI. World Tourism Day 2008.
The photovoltaic cells will convert sunlight into electricity, generating enough power to light, heat or cool the 6,300 seater hall, which is used for weekly papal audiences during winter and other times of year when the weather is bad. "With this plant, if it is working, in about two weeks we avoid 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and this is the equivalent to 70 tonnes of oil," one of the project engineers told the Associated Press news agency.

When the hall is not in use, the surplus energy produced will reportedly be fed into the Vatican's power network.

The Paul VI auditorium was designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi and built in 1969. But when the cement panels on its roof were shown to be deteriorating last year it was decided to replace them with solar panels, reportedly worth $1.5m, which according to an Associated Press report were donated as a gift to the German-born Pope by a Bonn-based company, Solar World.

This is not the first energy-saving initiative in the Vatican in recent years. In 1999, under the previous Pope John Paul II, the entire lighting system of St. Peter's Basilica was refurbished with energy-efficient lighting, which cut its energy consumption by about 40 percent.

A video clip of the Vatican solar panels

World Tourism Day Address

Meanwhile, on World Tourism Day (September 27) Pope Benedict addressed representatives of two major tourism organizations to say that tourism that treats the environment and other people responsibly is "a reason for hope in a world in which the distance between those who have everything and those who suffer hunger, scarcity and drought is accentuated."

He said humanity "has the duty to protect the treasure of Creation, and to be determined in opposing the indiscriminate use of the earth's goods,” and affirmed that "experience teaches that the responsible management of creation is, or should be, a part of a healthy economy and sustainable tourism. On the contrary, the improper use of nature and the abuse inflicted on the culture of local peoples also harms tourism.”

"To learn to respect the environment also teaches respect for others and for oneself."

ARC has a major programme to help Catholic organisations around the world develop their own plans to implement generational changes on environmental issues. This includes links with Catholic Earthcare in Australia, the UK Bishops of England & Wales, the Vatican, the UK Bishop for Environment and Justice based at Clifton Cathedral, the International Benedictine community and others. Where it is appropriate this is based around our Seven Year Plan programme.


Link here for the Pope's December 2006 address on the environment.

Link here for a BBC video clip of the panels

Link here for the BBC story.

Link here for the MSNBC story.

Link here to learn more about ARC's Catholic Eco-Schools newsletter.

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