GOZO DIOCESE receives EU funding to contribute to turn Gozo into an Eco Island

20th November 2011

Pope Benedict XVI has been an ardent supporter for many years of recognizing the truth of climate change and the collective responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and preserve clean air and clean water. In fact, he has been dubbed the “Green Pope” in diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks.

And in a true example of “lived faith,” the pope and his leadership spearheaded renewable energy projects right in Vatican City. In 2008 the Vatican began installing 2,400 solar panels atop the pope’s audience hall, which prevents 230 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted annually. The Vatican even flirted with the idea of going completely carbon neutral by reforesting degraded land in Hungary to offset their emissions, though critics assailed the plan for its focus on offsets over efficiency improvements.

In the new pope’s first social encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” he proclaimed there is a “covenant” between humans and the environment, and “responsibility is a global one, for it is concerned not just with energy but with the whole of creation, which must not be bequeathed to future generations depleted of its resources.” He highlighted in particular the responsibility of wealthy developed nations to take the lead on these efforts.

In the light of these official Catholic pronouncements and declarations the Diocese of Gozo would like to put words into practice and lead by example so that others would follow. This is in line with the Church’s catechetical field which would lead us, as a Christian community, to partly address some of the main concerns that mankind is facing in the environmental issues.  As a local church in Gozo we have been discussing for quite a long time the effects of harmful environmental planning and over consumption of energy sources that are becoming more scarce and limited.

The role of the local Church in this process is simple: responding to the signs of the times (Mt 16:3) and actively participating in the development of a community based on Christian values. In his Homely on the 4th October 2006, Bishop Grech encourages the use of responsibility when dealing with “God’s environment” and the exploitation of renewable energy sources. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and that our decisions will influence directly on it.

Bearing in mind our strong beliefs that authentic environmental conscience would eventually lead us to a profound spiritual experience as a Christian community we are embarking on this pilot project to provide alternative sources of energy by tapping solar energy which in turn would help us go along in our pastoral activity.  We are indicating five  particular places that reflect symbolically our Christian community namely : The Diocesan Administrative Offices commonly known as the Bishop’s Curia, The Good Shepherd Pastoral Centre at Victoria which houses a catechetical and formative centre, a place of prayer and worship, a residential home for the priests, and recreational facilities, and finally the Parish Pastoral Centres of Munxar and Ghajnsielem. The locations of these five  pastoral centres are mainly inhabited by young couples who are still raising their children.  A case in point is the Good Shepherd Pastoral Centre where circa 130 kids frequent formative classes three times a week. In Munxar some other 250 children and over a 100 youths and adolescents make also regular use of their Parish Pastoral Centre.  The Ghajnsielem Pastoral Centre/Church on the other hand offer a service to 850 families with some 800 youths/adolescents/children who at some time or other make use of the services offered at the Pastoral Centre.

The Gozo Diocese has been allocated European funds co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with the project entitled “Gozo Diocese’s contribution to turn Gozo into an Eco-Island” and therefore contribute to the nation’s vision for the Island of Gozo. The project which has been projected to cost circa €346,000 is being financed as to 66.7% from the ERDF and national funds with the rest coming from the Gozo Diocese and the respective Parishes’/Centres’ own funding with the co-financing of the Parliamentary Secretary for Consumers, Fair Competition, Local Councils and Public Dialogue. Following the installation of Photovoltaic Systems it is envisaged that 75,000 of kWh  shall be generated per annum, corresponding to an annual reduction in  CO2  emissions of circa  65300 kgs.