The Vatican will shut off some 100 fountains over the next few days to help Rome get through a period of severe drought. Pope Francis has been the first to use his standing to tackle environmental issues.
The fountains in St. Peter's square sculpted by late 17th century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini are two of the 100 fountains the Vatican will turn off over the coming days.
Rome, the Italian capital that encloses Vatican City, is in the midst of a drought after a deadly combination of suffocating summer heat and lower-than-average rainfall.
"This is the Vatican's way of living [in] solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis," Vatican Spokesman Greg Burke told Reuters TV while standing in front of the two Baroque masterpieces.
Burke added that it was the first time the Vatican – the spiritual home of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics - is turning off all the fountains.
Vatican's Environmental focus
Pope Francis demanded swift action by world leaders in the first-ever papal document dedicated to the environment in 2015. The encyclical - a formal teaching document - also laid out his fears for the future of the world's environment.
"This decision is very much in line with the pope's thinking on ecology: you can't waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice," Burke said.
The drought has forced authorities in Rome to shut off drinking fountains. They are also considering drastic water rationing measures to combat the problem.
Rome has received 72 percent less rainfall than normal in July, according to Sky Italia's weather television channel. That came after 74 percent less than normal in June, and there was a 56-percent reduction in rainfall from the long-term average from March to May.
The rest of Italy has been affected as well. Meteorologists claimed spring 2017 was the Mediterranean country's third-driest in 60 years.
dv/kl (AP, Reuters)