On a day when the world is learning that yet again a massive slaughter of elephants has taken place, this time of 89 elephants in Chad, many of which aborted upon being shot, I am struck by this video from ABC news which takes us inside the Vatican Pope Francis now calls home. At minute 1.15 we see what appears to be an ivory crucifix on the desk of Pope Benedict and at 1:53 we see two large elephant tusks on the back wall of a conference room. What is the message to those who share this space? Spiritual leaders have begun to recognize the cost in human lives and morals of the ivory trade. Three weeks ago I did an interview on the ivory trade with Vatican Radio. That show has yet to air. It is insignificant, however, next to the possibility of a leader who need ask no deeper question than this: What would St. Francis do?
“I have never heard or even read a word that would encourage the use of ivory for devotional objects,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi wrote National Geographic after letters from readers of Ivory Worship poured in to it. When it comes to religion it is the seen as well as the read, the believed as well as the heard, that makes all the difference for life.
Father Lombardi also said this: “I believe that the most important and most urgent action is that of raising the awareness of the Christian communities in the countries affected by the most serious phenomena so that they might act together with those in charge and with the other members of the civil communities in which they live in order to deal decisively with these very serious problems. This must be done, if possible, in collaboration between the followers of different Christian confessions or other religions. In fact, it is a serious problem that Christians can and should unite against….”