Religious leaders are not often early adopters of new technology. It takes quite a long time for massive, ancient organizations with deep-rooted beliefs to grow in a new direction, especially when it comes to something like climate change. After all, if scientists and major governments cannot agree that it is a real and crucial issue, what can be expected of religious leaders? Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI, the head of the Catholic Church isn’t waiting for climate change to become a universally accepted issue. Nicknamed the “green pope” and long praised for his stance on the importance of environmental sustainability, Pope Benedict has been working to greenify his surroundings for quite some time now. And auto manufacturers are beginning to take notice. Earlier this week, Renault presented the pontiff with an electric car.
The all white Renault Kangoo was donated to the pope at Castel Gandolfo, his summer estate just outside Rome. Bearing the papal seal on each door, the entirely electric vehicle will be used by the pope to travel the extensive grounds of the summer residence. In fact he used it immediately, to make his way from the helicopter pad to the palazzo upon returning from the general audience he holds each week in the Vatican. The picturesque property in the Alban Hills will be the permanent home of the Kangoo.
Left to his own devices, the pope would surely take the Kangoo when traveling Rome and Vatican City. But while the electric car will lower the pope’s carbon footprint and protect the ozone layer, it doesn’t offer enough protection for the head of one of the world’s largest religions. Most people are familiar with the “popemobile”, the bulky vehicle Pope Benedict rides in during public events. It is fitted with impenetrable bullet-proof glass for his safety. Mercedez Benz manufactures each model of the popemobile, and chances are Renault will not be receiving that contract any time soon. But Mercedez Benz is working to give the green pope an eco friendlier vehicle, studying designs for a hybrid model that will save a significant amount of energy.
Pope Benedict has made environmental sustainability a key focus of his reign. He almost always brings up his concerns during trips abroad, and includes green issues in the peace message he delivers each year. According to the writings in his encyclicals, the pope considers it our duty to protect the earth, as it is one of God’s primary creations. And he’s doing much more than just writing and talking about it. He’s actively transforming the way the Vatican approaches energy use. The Vatican is now part of a reforestation project, paying down their CO2 emissions, and they’ve fitted their main auditorium with photovoltaic cells.
The pope’s white Kangoo isn’t the only electric car used by the leaders of the Catholic Church. When Renault donated his model, they gave a blue Kangoo over as well, to be employed within Vatican City by the gendarmes. And earlier this year NWG, another Italian motor vehicle manufacturer, donated one of their electric models to be used by the Vatican press office. Hopefully all of this exposure will lead to more Catholics considering a transition to hybrid or electric vehicles. After all, they not only preserve our environment, but an individual’s wallet as well. On top of savings at the gas pump, if you compare insurance online you’ll find huge discounts for hybrid and electric vehicle drivers. As more influential leaders transition to these vehicles, there’s a greater chance that the general public will embrace them as well. And that’s a new direction everyone should be happy with.