CBCP head urges priests not to bless statues made of ivory
MANILA, Philippines — Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Wednesday urged his fellow prelates to prohibit priests from receiving or blessing religious images made of ivory or any materials taken or derived from protected and endangered species.
“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 in his pastoral moral guidance on poaching, trafficking and decimation of endangered species.
“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.
However, he said that those statues and images of ivory and other analogous materials from protected and endangered species already in use prior to the issuance of the pastoral guidance, should be safeguarded, and may remain in use for purposes of devotion and in recognition of their historical value.
“The Catholic Church must do its part. No matter the beauty of a work of art, it cannot justify the slaughter of wildlife, the use of endangered organic forms and lending a seal of approval to the threat posed to biodiversity by poachers and traffickers,” Villegas said.
Citing Pope Francis’ acclaimed encyclical on the environment, Villegas said : “Every instance of beauty is a reflection of the infinite beauty of the Creator. We cannot, without offending the Creator, deface his creation.”
He said that in the Philippines, endemic species have been hardly cared for.
“The Church in the Philippines is very concerned that not enough dimension is given this very important aspect of spirituality: respect for the will of the Creator manifest in the diversity of life and in the crucial role each plays in the wisely balanced scheme of nature,” he said.
“Poaching is rampant. Our seas and waters are overfished. Wildlife is surreptitiously traded — because there are both buyers and sellers,” he added.
Globally, he lamented that the problem has been nothing less than alarming.
“More and more species pass into extinction, while we go on with our reckless ways, failing to see that we diminish ourselves tremendously and probably imperil our own future in the measure that we lead other species to their doom,” Villegas said. SFM
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