By Carol Glatz | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The papal property at Castel Gandolfo, with its vast gardens and diverse livestock, will now be the home of a new scientific and educational center dedicated to promoting integral ecology, sustainability, and a circular and generative economy.
Pope Francis established the new Laudato Si’ Center for Higher Education Feb. 2 because he wanted “to make a tangible contribution to the development of ecological education by opening a new space for training and raising awareness,” the Vatican City governor’s office said in a written news release.
The initiative, called the “Borgo Laudato Si'” project, will have “the beauty of the Villa Barberini gardens and the papal villas as the natural setting for developing a center for education in integral ecology, open to all people of goodwill,” it said.
Planned activities and initiatives will be announced in the coming months, it said; they will aim to “combine training in integral ecology, circular and generative economy, and environmental sustainability,” it said.
According to the “chirograph” or brief papal document establishing the center, the center will be “placed under (the pope’s) personal attention” and managed and run by its own governing bodies and staff.
The pope appointed: Scalabrinian Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to be the center’s new director general; Salesian Sister Alessandra Smerilli, secretary of the dicastery, and Francesca Romana Busnelli as members of the board of directors; and Antonio Errigo as secretary.
According to its new statutes, the center will actively seek ways to involve young people and those who are marginalized as well as the general public.
Its papal mandate focuses on developing specific projects that foster people’s holistic development and that promote education and training in economic and environmental sustainability, inspired by the principles in pope’s 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
In addition to sponsoring events, seminars, conferences and study weeks, it also will organize visits for the general public that highlight “the natural, cultural and scientific patrimony” of the papal property, according to its statutes.
Beyond research and education, the center’s activities also can include cultural events, “hospitality” and food services, utilizing traditional and advanced agricultural methods, and continuing the papal farm’s activities of “animal husbandry” and producing dairy products.
The papal property at Castel Gandolfo extends over 135 acres — compared to the 108.7 acres of Vatican City. It includes 74 acres of gardens — 17 of which are formal gardens — 62 acres of farmland, three residences and a farm with chickens, hens, rabbits, assorted fowl, cows and a small dairy operation. There are fruit and olive orchards, vineyards, hayfields, vegetable patches, aromatic herbs, flowerbeds and plants that often are used to decorate the papal apartments and meeting rooms at the Vatican.
Pope Pius XI established the farm in the 1930s to be “a model of a genuine lifestyle, the same he was able to enjoy as a youth,” the Vatican newspaper reported in 2011, and to make use of the fertile pastures — which had been abandoned after the loss of the Papal States in 1870 — to provide fresh fare for the papal menu.