Pope Benedict XVI has spoken recently of the "urgent need constantly to defend the environment and the natural world, [and] also to discover its more profound spiritual and religious dimension."
His comments came in an address to a group of sponsors of the Holy See's Pavilion at 'Expo Zaragoza 2008', an international exposition held in the Spanish city of Zaragoza on the theme: 'Water and sustainable development'.
The head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics declared: "The truth is that when God, through creation, gave [humanity] the keys to the earth, [the intention was] to use this great gift responsibly and respectfully, making it fruitful."
He added: "it is important to reiterate the close relationship between protection of the environment and respect for the ethical requirements of human nature, because when human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits".
The group included Francisco Vazquez, Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, and Archbishop Manuel Urena, Pastor of Zaragoza.
In his address, the pontiff said the pavilion, which had been one of the most visited, contained an important display of the "priceless artistic, cultural and religious heritage of the Church."
"The aim of this initiative was to offer the many visitors an opportunity to reflect upon the significance and primordial importance water has for human life", said Benedict.