Italian activists have petitioned Pope Benedict to stop wearing his ermine-trimmed hat and cape but a former Vatican official says there are more important issues to address.
EarthTimes reports that in a newspaper interview published Wednesday a senior Catholic cleric suggested the campaign, also consisting of a online petition, may be misplaced.
"Aren't there more important battles to be fought?" asked Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to Italy Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo.
"It's fine to defend the ermine, but there are human beings whose wellbeing warrants priority and yet no one seems to care," the cardinal told Milan daily Corriere dell Sera.
The Italian Association for the Defence of Animals and the Environment launched its petition on July 21 with the aim of collecting 10,000 online endorsements by September 30.
By Wednesday, the petition's website had registered some 2,235 endorsements from people who want the pope to help save the ermine, a small mammal also known as the stoat or short tailed weasel.
The campaign's "success to date" prompted Aidaa president Lorenzo Croce to send Benedict a letter on Tuesday, asking the pontiff to engage in "an act of charity towards animals, creatures of God."
Croce said he was hoping to receive a positive response given that the pontiff's interest in the welfare of animals - Benedict is a keen cat lover - was well known, as was his concern for environmental issues.
Benedict has revived the use of clothing, including a white ermine-lined cloak and a similarly adorned hat last worn by Pope John XXIII in the 1960's.
Pope asked to ditch his ermine-lined clothing (EarthTimes, 13/8/08)
Cat-loving Pope told to ditch fur (Daily Telegraph, 13/8/08)