The Father, The Sun, and the Holy Spirit

The Atlantic has just published my piece on Pope Benedict’s plans to green the Vatican.

To say I was standing in the shadow of St. Peter’s would be to some extent getting things backward. To be sure, from my vantage on the curved roof of the pope’s audience hall in Vatican City, the bronze dome of the basilica next door loomed large. But the main attraction for me lay in the full glare of the sun: 2,400 solar panels, curled over the sweep of the hall’s roof, which were busy transmuting photons into electrons—generating electricity and preventing, according to the Vatican, some 230 tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere this year.

Yet if the high-tech power plant seemed anachronistic atop an institution better known for swinging censers and festooned Swiss guards, its importance was clear: for the Vatican, the solar panels signify a path forward, silicon monocrystals on which the heir to Saint Peter could continue to build his Church.


Read the rest.