The pope isn’t just being a tad hypocritical here – he’s being short-sighted.
Air conditioning is an exemplar of modern ingenuity, but it’s also a mechanical thermoregulatory product that’s often put to conservative ends — for instance to preserve important artifacts of the past. In fact, right next to the air-conditioned Domus Sanctae Marthae is the Vatican Secret Archives, which conserves invaluable documents spanning millennia by controlling the microclimate in which they are housed.
And next door to the Archives is the Sistine Chapel, where just a year ago the Vatican installed a new air-conditioning system to preserve the deteriorating, centuries-old frescoes while accommodating existing tourist traffic. Director of Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci wrote in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that officials had to either limit access to the chapel in order to reduce the amount of dust and carbon dioxide brought in from the outside or find a technological solution. The Vatican’s decision to do the latter, according to Paolucci, allowed the Sistine Chapel “to breathe again.”