By Cindy Wooden
The Catholic Church has never encouraged anyone to use ivory for religious devotional objects and, in fact, teaches that animals must be treated with respect, the Vatican spokesman said in a letter to "friends of the elephants."
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, responding to questions posed in an online National Geographic editorial, said, "thinking that there is an important ivory trafficking center to uproot here (in the Vatican) in order to save African elephants makes no sense."
Within the boundaries of Vatican City, "there is no store that sells items made of ivory to the faithful or to pilgrims," Father Lombardi wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to National Geographic.
The October 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine featured an article titled "Ivory Worship" about how the use of objects made of ivory in the devotions of many religions -- not just Catholicism -- are contributing to the slaughter of elephants in Africa.
In an online editorial Jan. 17, National Geographic said that by taking a stand against the use of ivory for religious objects, the Vatican could help slow the slaughter. The article included the personal email addresses of Father Lombardi and his secretary.
Responding to the editorial, Father Lombardi said many people had written to express their concern and not all of them were "particularly kind or profound."
However, he said, many of the messages conveyed compelling arguments regarding "the duty to combat a serious and unjustifiable phenomenon."
Father Lombardi, who also serves as general director of Vatican Radio, promised that staff members of the radio's broadcasts to Africa in English, French, Swahili and Portuguese would investigate the problem and encourage Catholics in Africa "to engage in the fight against poaching and the illegal ivory trade." More....