Environmental Pope Francis Gets Eco-Friendly Altar for Washington, D.C. Mass

Pope Francis
The Associated Press

A Catholic deacon who says he was inspired by Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment is building an altar for the papal Mass in Washington, D.C. using “ecologically friendly” materials.

According to the Catholic Standard, the online magazine of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Deacon Dave Cahoon is building the altar Pope Francis will use on September 23 when he celebrates Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. During the Mass, the Pope will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, who was an 18th century Spanish Franciscan missionary in California.

Cahoon also built the altar for Pope Benedict XVI’s papal Mass at Nationals Stadium in 2008.

Designed by Catholic University architecture students Ariadne Cerriteli, Matthew Hoffman, and Joseph Taylor, the altar will later be used in the National Shrine after the papal Mass.

The Standard reports Cahoon used materials for the altar “that did not involve any exploitation of the environment or of native workers.” The altar’s 10 individual columns are made of poplar, while its main structure is crafted of medium density fiberboard, which will be stained with a faux finish to match the color of the columns.

Local craftsmen from Rugo Stone of Lorton, Virginia, will make the altar’s top of Botticino Classico, an Italian marble.

Cahoon, whose carpentry shop is named after St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus who was also a carpenter, said he tries to imitate his shop’s patron saint.

“I think for him, work was a prayer,” he said of St. Joseph. “The faith journey is the big thing. You go along for the ride, and all along the way, you see the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Cahoon is constructing 14 pieces of furniture that will be used in the sanctuary during Pope Francis’ Mass in Washington, D.C.