Vatican mints environment-themed coin

Source: By Avery Ellfeldt, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Vatican has minted a coin that carries the image of a young woman who is pregnant — with the Earth.

Unveiled last Friday, the coin is worth €10 and was designed by the Italian sculptor Luigi Oldani. The Vatican commissioned the Catholic artist to create an ecologically themed coin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Oldani told the Catholic News Agency.

The Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office, which issues postal stamps and coins, said the church supports the “grandiose and complex” project of celebrating the Earth — which requires taking care of it.

The office’s website says that belief led it to promote “international action to guarantee everyone a future, the food that is needed, both in quantity and quality, so that economic advancement may be accompanied with social development, without which there is no real progress.”

Engraved on the coin is a pregnant woman cradling her womb, which holds the Earth. The Vatican said the woman, who has stalks of wheat in her hair, represents human responsibility to love the planet “as if it were a daughter.”

Oldani’s aim was to design a “universal woman,” he told CNA, to avoid illustrating a person of a certain ethnicity. He also said the design was inspired by Pope Francis, who has repeatedly emphasized that humans must protect the Earth — which he often calls the “common home.”

In 2015, Francis penned a landmark papal encyclical — the “Laudato Si'” — which urged all Roman Catholics to act on climate change. The letter called for an “ecological conversion” and said people of faith must hear the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (Climatewire, June 18, 2015).

When President Trump visited the Vatican in 2017, Francis gave him a signed copy of the letter. Also during that visit, Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s cardinal secretary of state, urged the president to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.

Years later, during a 2019 speech at the Vatican, Francis said that environmental destruction amounts to a sin against God. He floated the idea of adding “sins against ecology” to the church’s official teachings (Climatewire, Nov. 21, 2019).

“It is a sin against future generations and is manifested in the acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment,” he said.