Monday, May 14, 2007

Vatican Colors: Gold, White... and Green

As Benedict XVI's visit to the United Nations awaits a slot on the pontiff's calendar, the Vatican rep to the organization's New York heaquarters has cited the "grave and far-reaching responsibility to ourselves and to future generations" his peers face on issues of energy and the environment, among them "precise commitments to address the question of climate change."

At a Thursday UN meeting on sustainable development in New York, the Holy See observer Archbishop Celestino Migliore cited impending figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to note that "the scientific evidence for global warming and for humanity’s role in the increase of greenhouse gasses becomes ever more unimpeachable.

"Such activity has a profound relevance," Migliore said, "not just for the environment, but in ethical, economic, social and political terms as well.

"The consequences of climate change are being felt not only in the environment," the observer noted, "but in the entire socio-economic system and, as seen in the findings of numerous reports already available, they will impact first and foremost the poorest and weakest who, even if they are among the least responsible for global warming, are the most vulnerable because they have limited resources or live in areas at greater risk."

Reminding the Committee for Sustainable Development of the UN's Economic and Social Council that "many of the most vulnerable societies, already facing energy problems, rely upon agriculture, the very sector most likely to suffer from climatic shifts," the archbishop said that "in order to address the double challenge of climate change and the need for ever greater energy resources, we will have to change our present model from one of the heedless pursuit of economic growth in the name of development, towards a model which heeds the consequences of its actions and is more respectful towards the Creation we hold in common, coupled with an integral human development for present and future generations." The address was published on Friday in the Daily Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office.

Thursday's intervention by the top diplomat -- the Holy See's "deputy foreign minister" before his 2002 appointment to New York -- is but the latest signal of the Vatican's increased engagement and interest on environmental questions, which have also popped up in the talks and documents of Benedict XVI. In a March speech in Ohio, Migliore said that "the aggressive and progressive degradation of the environment... has become an inescapable reality."

In other diplomatic news, said to be close at hand is a turnover of the #2 post in the Secretariat of State, currently held by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who's been the Sostituto for General Affairs there since 2000.

The papal equivalent of a White House chief of staff, the sostituto presides over the nerve-center of the Roman Curia, so much so that his job description includes (at least, technically) overseeing the personal secretaries of the papal apartment, who are accredited to Stato's "First Section." From 1937-54, the post was held by Msgr Giovanni Battista Montini, who became Pope Paul VI nine years after departing the Apostolic Palace for the archbishopric of Milan.

In keeping with the tradition of his predecessors, the Buenos Aires-born Sandri, 63, will almost certainly land in a post which earns its wearer a red hat. Most mentioned among his potential destinations has been the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, where current prefect Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud is almost two years past his 75th birthday.