Church condemns slaughter of elephants

Kenya Wildlife Service officials in Nairobi Jan. 16 display recovered elephant tusks and illegally held firearms taken from poachers.

CNS PHOTO | NOOR KHAMIS, POOL

Kenya Wildlife Service officials in Nairobi Jan. 16 display recovered elephant tusks and illegally held firearms taken from poachers.

February 4, 2013

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 centre 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,” 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.