The Catholic hierarchy in Philippines is actively protesting poaching by discouraging the clergy from using ivory for religious devotional objects.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church “must do its part” and vowed to raise awareness about the illegal ivory trade, insisting that animals must be treated with respect.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, urged his fellow bishops to reject the use of materials extracted or derived from protected and endangered species, especially new ones.
No to poaching, trafficking
“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 said.
In his recent encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis has warned against “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” by a world that commodifies and exploits nature.
Villegas said the ivory trade and poaching, trafficking, and decimation of other endangered species is precisely that.
In the Philippines alone, he admitted that endemic species “are hardly cared for.” And on a global scale, he added, the problem is “nothing less than alarming.”
“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,” he added.
“Every instance of beauty is a reflection of the infinite beauty of the Creator. We cannot, without offending the Creator, deface his creation,” Villegas also said.
On the other hand, the CBCP head said old religious images and statues using such materials may still be kept and used in respect to their “historical value”. “Those statues and images of ivory and other analogous materials from protected and endangered species already in use probably for centuries before the issuance of this pastoral guidance, should be safeguarded, and may remain in use for purposes of devotion and in recognition of their historical value,” he said.
In 2012, the CBCP had already emphasized that the Church does not condone ivory smuggling and supports the international ban on ivory. (CBCPNews)