Vatican Aide: Oil Spill Is a Lesson in Humility

Stresses Responsibility in Technology Use

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2010 ( The oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico must be a lesson in humility for all human activities, not only for the energy industry, a Vatican spokesman said.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, spoke on the latest episode of Octava Dies about the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico following an April 20 well blowout on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling platform.

«It is difficult to calculate the dimensions of the disaster, but they are certainly enormous and continue to grow,» he said.

«There come to mind other grave environmental disasters connected with human activity,» the priest observed, «like those of the chemical factory in Bhopal, India in 1984, or that of the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, which caused a number of deaths and serious harm to people.»

He continued, «What is striking in this case is the sense of impotence and slowness in finding a solution in the face of the disaster, on the part of one the largest and most well-equipped multinational oil companies in the world, but also on the part of the most powerful country on earth.»

The oil company BP has been fingered as being primarily responsible for what has become the largest spill in U.S. history, though the multinational corporation objects to this accusation.

The U.S. government has declared a fisheries disaster for the states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. It is estimated that the fishing industry will lose some $2.5 billion due to the spill.


«This is something incredible,» Father Lombardi noted, «but it is a fact.»

He added: «It is not the eruption of a volcano but of a relatively small hole made by man on the ocean floor. And yet, in two months, super-specialized scientists and technicians have not been able to stop it.»

«Will we be able to learn a lesson from this about prudence and care in using the resources of the earth and about the planet’s equilibriums?» the priest asked.

«Certainly,» he said, «much will change from now on in the oil drilling industry to make it safer.»

«But perhaps we can also learn a lesson of humility,» Father Lombardi added.

«Technology will always make progress,» he affirmed. «But if in relatively simple production processes such impotence is manifested, what will we do if much more complex processes get out of control, like those that have to do with the energy hidden in the nucleus of material or still more in the processes of the formation of life.»

The priest concluded, «Benedict XVI was quite right to end his last encyclical on the big problems of humanity today with a chapter on responsibility in the use of power and technology.»

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