Faith Leaders Call for Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery

Conservation a “moral issue,” not political, says multi-faith statement

Spirit. Photo courtesy Peggy Jehly, Colorado Wolf Adventures.

SANTA FE – Faith leaders assembled Wednesday at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in downtown Santa Fe to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Francis, Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment, which traditionally includes a blessing of the animals. But the animals to be blessed were not the usual dogs, cats, and other household pets. The group gathered this year to bless two wolves, in an inter-faith show of support for Mexican gray wolf recovery.

In a famous parable of coexistence, St. Francis makes peace with a marauding wolf after recognizing that the creature, who was terrorizing the city of Gubbio, was acting out of hunger and not malice. After affirming the wolf’s right to existence, St. Francis blessed the wolf. The story delivers a message of stewardship and care for the natural world.

Fr. Adam Ortega y Ortiz, Rector of the Cathedral Basilica, Rev. Talitha Arnold, Senior Minister of United Church of Santa Fe, and Rev. Carol Calvert, Bishop of Brigid’s Well Healing Order all spoke at the event, which took place beneath a statue of St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. Over three dozen representatives of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and other faith groups in New Mexico and throughout the Southwest also signed a joint statement, calling for the “full and timely recovery of Mexican wolves, based on the best available science, across their entire historic range.”

Mexican wolves once roamed freely from Southern Colorado and the Grand Canyon to Central Mexico, but by the 1970’s were driven to the brink of extinction by human activity. Today, fewer than one hundred fifty Mexican wolves live in isolated pockets of habitat in Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, far short of the seven hundred fifty wolves independent scientists say is necessary for a stable, healthy population, making them the most endangered mammal in North America. The wild population is small, scattered, and genetically inbred, leaving them vulnerable to extreme weather and disease. Hundreds of captive wolves await release from breeding facilities across the US.

Pope Francis, who took the name of the environmentalist Saint, writes in his Laudato Si encyclical, “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.”

The Southwest Environmental Center (SWEC) coordinated the event. SWEC Executive Director Kevin Bixby says, “We welcome the involvement of New Mexico’s faith communities in the effort to prevent the extinction of the Mexican gray wolf. Their support for Mexican wolves sends a powerful message that this is not about politics, it is about what is morally right.”

The two wolf hybrids, one-year-old Spirit and seven-month-old Apache, traveled from Colorado for the blessing, courtesy of Colorado Wolf Adventures in Woodland Park.

Click here to read the full statement from faith leaders.

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