Friday, December 05, 2008

Green Galero, "Green" Appointment

A week after the first "enviro-friendly" papal audience in the newly solar-paneled Paul VI Hall, this morning B16 named Msgr Karl Golser (left), one of his former CDF aides -- and a key figure in the "eco-theology" movement -- as head of his favorite vacation diocese: the Italo-German melting pot of Bolzano-Bressanone, where the pontiff holidayed again for two weeks last summer.

A native of the diocese currently serving as its canon penitentiary, the 65 year-old bishop-elect -- a moral theologian by training -- has led a local think-tank on "justice, peace and the safeguarding of creation" since returning home from a five-year stint at the Holy Office in 1982.
Since the late 1960s, the future pope, along with his brother and sister, took their annual summer vacation at a local hotel in Bressanone. (The owner recently recalled that the Ratzinger siblings would take three rooms each year, sharing a bathroom in common.) After becoming a cardinal, Ratzinger continued to summer in Bressanone as a guest of the local seminary, a practice he has continued as pope. A shady patch of the garden on the grounds of the seminary is informally named for Ratzinger because of his predilection for reading there.

It was also during his 2004 vacation in Bressanone that Benedict penned his book Jesus of Nazareth.

With today’s appointment, Benedict entrusted this diocese, for which he has deep personal affection, to one of European Catholicism’s most outspoken advocates for strong environmental sensitivity.

Over the years, perhaps Golser’s major contribution as an ethicist has been to develop a strong theology of environmental concern. In 1995, he edited the volume The Religions and Ecology: Responsibility towards Creation in the Great Religions.

Golser has also served as an advisor to the environmental commission of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, as well as a member of the council’s ad-hoc committee on climate change. That latter body recently produced a document calling upon European leaders to anchor environmental policies in a sense of “inter-generational justice and solidarity towards countries of the [global] South.”

During a 2007 diocesan Eucharistic congress in Bologan, Golser publicly called the church and the broader society to an “ecological conversion.”

Last August, when Benedict XVI met with the clergy of Bolzano-Bressanone during his summer vacation, Golser had the opportunity to put a question to the pope on environmentalism. On that day, Golser asked:

“Today, we sometimes have the feeling that, as Church, we have retired to the sacristy. Declarations of the papal magisterium on the important social issues do not find the right response in parishes and ecclesial communities. Here in Alto Adige, the authorities and many associations forcefully call attention to environmental problems and in particular to climate change. The principal arguments are the melting of glaciers, landslides in the mountains, the problems of the cost of energy, traffic, and the pollution of the atmosphere. There are many initiatives for safeguarding the environment. However, in the average awareness of our Christians, all this has very little to do with faith. What can we do to increase the sense of responsibility for Creation in the life of our Christian communities? What can we do in order to view Creation and Redemption as more closely united? How can we live a Christian lifestyle in an exemplary way that will endure? And how can we combine this with a quality of life that is attractive for all the people of our earth?

Benedict began his reply by saying to Golser, “You would certainly be far more able than I to answer these questions!” The pope went on to argue that Christianity has a decisive contribution to make to a new environmental ethic: “True and effective measures against the waste and destruction of creation,” he said, “can only be realized and developed, understood and lived, when creation is considered from the point of view of God.”

Benedict’s nomination of Golser in Bolzano-Bressanone is thus, in part, a reflection of what has become a strong environmental emphasis in the pope’s social teaching. At a September 2007 Mass in Loretto, Italy, marking the celebration of Earth Day, Benedict issued a forceful ecological appeal: “Before it’s too late,” the pope said, “we need to make courageous choices that will recreate a strong alliance between man and the earth. We need a decisive ‘yes’ to care for creation and a strong commitment to reverse those trends that risk making the situation of decay irreversible.”...

Among other things, Golser’s nomination likely means he will serve as the pope’s new summer host, assuming that Benedict XVI continues his practice of taking his summer breaks in Bressanone. One reason for doing so: The pope still has a copy of the key to the seminary library, which was given to him as a cardinal by the rector so that he could come and go as he pleased.