Following publication of the Blood Ivory/Ivory Worship story by Bryan Christy in National Geographic last October, Steven Broad of TRAFFIC wrote the following letter. Owing to space constraints in the magazine, it was impossible to publish Mr. Broad’s letter and Mr. Christy’s response in full. In the interests of furthering the discussion about the illegal elephant ivory trade, we’re posting the correspondence here.
“We are absolutely convinced that the massacre of elephant is a very serious matter,” writes Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, in a response today to our correspondence about the use of elephant ivory for devotional icons by some Catholic followers.
As Father Lombardi points out, it was emails from readers of A Voice for Elephants blog to his office that encouraged him to write this letter. Please continue the conversation by commenting here and also, if you wish, by writing directly to his office.
The religious use of ivory is among the least publicized and seemingly most easily correctable drivers of the massive elephant slaughter now taking place across Africa. Does the Vatican consider the use of ivory religious carvings and ecclesiastical gifts to be morally wrong or at odds with Church doctrine? There has been no response to several requests National Geographic made to the Vatican to clarify the Church’s position.