Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) – The Catholic Church is taking a proactive approach against poaching by discouraging the clergy from using ivory for religious devotional objects.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that the Catholic Church “must do its part” and vowed to raise awareness about the illegal ivory trade, insisting that animals must be treated with respect.
For this reason, the CBCP president in a pastoral letter urged his fellow bishops to reject the use of materials extracted or derived from protected and endangered species, especially new ones.
“I appeal to my brother bishops of the Philippines to prohibit the clerics from blessing any new statue, image or object of devotion made or crafted from such material as ivory or similar body parts of endangered or protected, nor shall such new statues or images be used as objects of veneration in any of our churches,” Villegas said.
“I propose to my brother bishops to enforce the directive that no donation of any new statue or religious object made from ivory or materials extracted, taken or derived from protected and endangered species shall be accepted and blessed,” he added.
Villegas said that the ivory trade and poaching, trafficking, and decimation of other endangered species is precisely that.
In the Philippines alone, endemic species “are hardly cared for,” he noted. On a global scale, the problem is “nothing less than alarming.”
In his view, “Every instance of beauty is a reflection of the infinite beauty of the Creator.” Therefore, “We cannot, without offending the Creator, deface his creation”.
On the other hand, the prelate noted that old religious images and statues containing ivory could still be kept and used because of their “historical value”.
The Church’s campaign against the ivory trade and support for the worldwide ban goes back to 2012, anticipating Pope Francis’ Laudato si’, the “green” encyclical he released in June.
The pope’s heartfelt appeal to the care of the environment and its creatures was recently translated into Tagalog, the main language of the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia.
The text was presented at the Manila International Book Fair in September, and corresponds to the call by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to study, reflect and implement the pope’s message on ecology and the environment.