Pope Benedict XVI: The ‘Green’ Pope And His Eco-Legacy

After just seven short years of service, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation this morning. Perhaps struggling to adapt to a world increasingly dependent on technology, the Pope cited his advanced age as a major factor in the decision. “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he said in a statement issued by the Vatican.

Benedict made headlines when he took office in 2005, and surprisingly, many of them were attributed to his strong pro-environmental stance. In many instances, he used traditional Catholic principles to advance progressive causes, including the pressing need to address climate change. After the jump, EarthTechling takes a look back at the eco-legacy of Pope Benedict XVI, and how his stance helped many to see the urgent need for environmental action.

Dubbed “the Green Pope” for his interest in environmental issues, Benedict XVI helped to author several books that share his views on the real meaning of progress and development, and what that means for our planet of limited resources. In 2009, Ten Commandments for the Environment was released by Ave Maria Press. In it, journalist Woodeene Koenig-Bricker weaves together Pope Benedict’s key statements on environmental justice, and offers commentary that helps to unpack the “Ten Commandments for the Environment,” which had only recently been released by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Then in 2012, Pope Benedict published The Environment, which shares his thoughts on everyone’s right to food, right to water and responsible sharing.

But Pope Benedict’s environmental legacy doesn’t exist only on the printed page. As ThinkProgress reports, “He boosted ‘efforts to make Vatican City more environmentally efficient,’ and called on world leaders to “agree on a responsible, credible and supportive response to this worrisome and complex phenomenon [climate change], keeping in mind the needs of the poorest populations and of future generations.”

Pope Benedict also turned heads when he chose electric vehicles for use within the grounds of the Vatican and his summer home of Castel Gandolfo, as well as for the Vatican’s police force.

Although one may not agree with all Catholic doctrine, it’s clear that Pope Benedict’s tenure helped to bridge the gap between what many may see as traditional conservative thinking, and the ecumenical ideals of the pro-environmental movement. Through his books, teachings, and energy efficient upgrades, many Catholics gained a greater appreciation of the environment, and came to understand that protecting the environment is a moral obligation commanded in the Bible. We can only hope that his successor will continue on in this wise style of leadership.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog