The Green Vatican

Image credit: Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium

We have all witnessed the unprecedented election of a new Pope last week, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the 266th pontiff taking the name Pope Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi. This is the first time in the modern era not a European pope but one from the Americas. We all wish him well in his leadership of the world’s Catholics.

But there is a little known additional title that the outgoing Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, has that very few know.  He has been designated as the  “green Pope” by the Italian media because of his efforts to convert the Vatican to an eco friendly state. His efforts are unprecedented in doing so and shows his concerns of current times issues.

As a matter of fact, the Vatican is known as the most environmentally friendly state in the world.  During Pope Benedict’s reign, giant solar panels were installed on the roofs of the Vatican and according to mother nature network the L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said: “ The Vatican has reached a small record in solar energy power production per capita; 200 watts at peak times… per inhabitant, compared to 80 in Germany, the world leader in his field”.

The population of the Vatican is around 800 people so the solar power production of electricity per capita is quite favorable with minimal impact of the environment. Mother nature network notes that L’Osservatore Romano reports that since the installation of the solar panels, the Vatican has saved 89.4 tons of oil equivalent.

During his papacy, Pope Benedict has instituted various recycling programs for the Vatican and his concern with the environment has been prominent in his thinking, so much so, that in 2012 the go ahead was given to international designers to submit to the annual Autostyle Design Competition their concepts for an electric popemobile. The designs would have an additional complexity in that the vehicle would not only by environmentally friendly but would also have to incorporate safety and security concerns that the popemobile requires. The designs would have to address the extra weight that security equipment has, like bulletproof glass while having the quick acceleration needed in case of an emergency. A hybrid vehicle might be the way to go where it uses electricity and gas when needed.

The Vatican’s aim is to use renewable energy sources for 20 percent of its energy needs by 2020, a goal set by the European Union for its members. It has a start in the right direction by Pope Benedict’s environmental initiatives and will continue with Pope Frances and future pontiffs for a better world.




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