“It is inconceivable to claim to be concerned about the human person while destroying his home, the earth, and vice versa”, Patriarch Bartholomew has insisted.
– Environmental abuse “nothing other than a sin”
“For us, taking care of the natural resources of our planet is a matter of being truthful before God and the created order… This is why we repeatedly condemn environmental abuse as nothing other than a sin”, Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople, said in a ceremony in Rome October 21.
The leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians was speaking in a lecture at the Franciscan-run Pontifical University Antonianum, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
The Ecumenical Patriarch devoted his address to urging that the world act on “signs of the time” that have worsened particularly over the past decade, including “alarming environmental degradation with climate change”, “the loss of biodiversity and the polluting of natural resources” and the “growing gap between rich and poor”.
– Protection of environment, respect for neighbour “two sides of the one coin”
In his address, Patriarch Bartholomew insisted that Christians have a special role to play in the fight against the degradation of the environment, since “caring for creation is not primarily a political or technological or economic question”, but rather “first of all a religious and ethical question”, since the world is God’s good creation.
Recalling that the Orthodox Church “was a pioneer in initiatives on critical global questions like the care of creation and social justice”, the patriarch stressed that for Eastern Christians “the protection of the natural environment and true respect for one’s neighbour are two sides of the same coin”.
If caring for our Common Home is first and foremost a religious and ethical mandate, then “we have a responsibility to carefully consider how we inhabit the world”, Bartholomew went on, highlighting that “since we are social beings and we share this world, we cannot live as isolated individuals, indifferent to the events around us”.
The Orthodox hierarch stressed that “we have been created for personal outreach; we are judged as people, societies and nations on the basis of that interaction”.
In that connection, he warned that “it is evident… that the reason for progress is false and inappropriate when the house of humankind is destroyed and people are mowed down”.
– Religions must “defend rights and promote dialogue for the sake of a better and brighter world”
Also in his address, Patriarch Bartholomew said the Orthodox Church gives its blessing to “every initiative that raises awareness of the gravity of the present environmental crisis and related social problems, and highlights the need for a radical change in ways of thinking and an assessment of today’s humankind”.
Also with respect to the challenges confronting the human family at present, the patriarch cautioned that “it is overly utopian to expect that solidarity and social cohesion can be established via globalisation, economic progress, improved standards of living, science and technology, digital communication and the internet”.
“It is impossible for a world of peace and justice to exist without the contribution of the great spiritual powers of humanity, that is to say, religions”, the patriarch said.
In the spirit of Pope Francis’ new encyclical Fratelli tutti and of the “precious” ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ that the pontiff signed in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Patriarch Bartholomew stressed that “we need one another; we need shared goals; we need collaborative efforts”.
Religions, in particular, “are called to build bridges based on love and understanding, not walls of exclusion based on fear and ignorance”, the hierarch appealed, adding that “we must be critical of all trends that undermine solidarity and are opposed to anything that reduces human beings to insatiable consumers at the expense of their neighbours”.
“We are called to find ways to avoid conflicts between races or clashes of civilisations, respect differences, defend rights and promote dialogue for the sake of a better and brighter world”, the patriarch pleaded.
At the honorary doctorate award ceremony, the minister general of the Franciscans. Fr. Michael Perry, paid tribute to Patriarch Bartholomew’s “inspired commitment on behalf of the environment, that environment that, with the eyes of faith, we recognise as the work of the omnipotence of God, friend of humanity”.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin – who attended the ceremony along with fellow Vatican cardinals Peter Turkson, the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; and Kurt Koch, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – lauded the patriarch’s “completely unique” relationship of “synchronicity” with Pope Francis, the author of the landmark 2015 ‘green’ encyclical Laudato si’.
Bartholomew’s “life and ministry, his intellectual work, the priorities he has chosen to promote, his ecclesiastical ministry and spiritual work – all of it resounds as an integral, holistic commitment at the service of the human person, of creation, which is our common home, and, ultimately, of God the creator of heaven and earth”, Parolin celebrated.