Patriarch Bartholomew on World Environment Day

Message from His All Holiness (June 5, 2009). The patriarch’s full text follows:

Today’s World Environment Day is an opportunity as well as an invitation for all of us, irrespective of religious background, to consider the ecological crisis.

In our time, more than ever before, there is an undeniable obligation for all to understand that environmental concern for our planet does not comprise a romantic notion of the few. The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of climate change, constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our world. Moreover, there is an immediate correlation between protection of the environment and every expression of economic and social life.

For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment as God’s creation is the supreme responsibility of human beings, quite apart from any material or other financial benefits that it may bring. The almighty God bequeathed this “very beautiful” world (Gen. 1.26) to humanity together with the commandment to “serve and preserve” it. Yet, the direct correlation of this divine mandate for the protection of creation to every aspect of contemporary economic and social life, ultimately enhances the global effort to control the problem of climate change by effectively introducing the ecological dimension into every aspect of life.

With the opening of this third millennium, environmental issues – already evident since the 20th century – acquired a new intensity, coming to the forefront of daily attention. According to the theological understanding of the Orthodox Christian Church, the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by sacredness. This is why its abuse and destruction is a sacrilegious and sinful act, revealing prideful despise toward the work of God the Creator. Humanity, too, is part of this Creation. Our rational nature, as well as the capacity to choose between good and evil, bestow upon us certain privileges as well as clear responsibilities. Unfortunately, however, human history is filled with numerous examples of misuse of these privileges, where the use and preservation of natural resources has been transformed into irrational abuse and, often, complete destruction, leading occasionally to the downfall of great civilizations.

Indeed, the care for and protection of Creation constitutes the responsibility of everyone on an individual and collective level. Naturally, the political authorities of each nation have a greater responsibility to evaluate the situation in order to propose actions, measures and regulations that will convince our communities of what must be done and applied. Yet, the responsibility of each individual is also immense both in one’s personal and family life but also in one’s role as an active citizen.

Thus, we call everyone to a more acute sense of vigilance for the preservation of nature and all creation, which God made in all His wisdom and love. And, from the See of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we invoke God’s blessing for World Environment Day, offering praise to the Creator of all, to whom is due all glory, honor and worship.


  1. Chris Banescu :

    Ahem, the “supreme responsibility of human beings” according to Christ and reflected in the Scriptures includes: defense of innocence, love of God, love of truth, and love of neighbor, not environmentalism.

  2. George Michalopulos :

    Amen Chris. This is Marxian drivel given an ecclesial gloss. We need to be stewards of the environment, yes, but the degradation of man proceeds apace. Save the environment for what? Clones? Animal-plant hybrids? Codswollop.

  3. These statements do make one weary but here are two thoughts to consider

    1)The over-emphasis on the problem is climate change is a de-emphasis on the Gospel. Climate change, global warming etc is not even a scientifically settled issue. There are many gifted scientists who disavow what His All Holiness i

  4. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    These are the troublesome sentences:

    The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of climate change, constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our world. Moreover, there is an immediate correlation between protection of the environment and every expression of economic and social life.

    What we see here is the subordination of economic and social arrangements to ideology and framed as a moral imperative (“gravest threat”). There is absolutely no difference between these sentences and what you would hear from Al Gore and other global warming activists. Andrew is right, “climate change” is not settled science, and while no one would disagree with the assertion that protection of the environment is a moral obligation that Christians in particular should speak to, linking this obligation to what amounts to an ideological prescription for economic and social reorganization is irresponsible.

    Anyone who sees beyond the moral posturing that informs much of the “climate change” activism will understand that a statement like this could only have been crafted by someone convinced by the ideology rather than the science. I don’t think the Patriarch crafted the statement. It is simply too American, too smug in its complacency, too certain that the question is closed.

    The author doesn’t do the Patriarch any favors either, especially since “climate change” will almost certainly go the way of Rachel Carlson’s “Silent Spring,” Paul Erlich’s “Population Bomb” and every other neo-Malthusian fantasy that sweeps through the culture every few decades. He is being pushed out on a limb that, if the past is any indication, stands a good chance of breaking.

    Much of the Patriarch’s exhortation about respect for the environment can be applauded. But why be so quick to equate climate change activism with the obligation to care for the environment? And why support the dubious thinking with grandiose statements like this:

    Unfortunately, however, human history is filled with numerous examples of misuse of these privileges, where the use and preservation of natural resources has been transformed into irrational abuse and, often, complete destruction, leading occasionally to the downfall of great civilizations.

    Really? Can anyone name even one civilization that has suffered this fate?

  5. Wesley J. Smith :

    Hysteria about climate change is a form of fundamentalism, as I see it, and hence does not seem a wise approach from a Patriarch. Besides, the greatest threat “the planet” faces is unquestionably nuclear conflagration, the risks of which are again on the rise. That could really destroy life as we know it.

  6. Please excuse my last comment as my software crashed while I was writing it.

    Here it is in its entirety:

    These statements do make one weary but here are some thoughts to consider

    1) The over-emphasis on the problem is climate change is a de-emphasis on the Gospel. Climate change, global warming etc is not even a scientifically settled issue. There are many gifted scientists who disavow what His All Holiness is hysterical about.

    2) Its hard to take the Patriarch’s environmentalism seriously when he has a yacht. That is a pretty large carbon footprint if you ask me.

    3) Remember the EP called Fidel Castro an environmentalist while neglecting to visit prisoners of conscience in Cuba during his visit. That the EP considers one of the great butchers of the 20th century an environmental hero is scary to say the least.

    Wesley Smith is correct the whole vision of the “Green Patriarch” is a form of fashionable fundamentalism. The world does not need a Green Patriarch or a Patriarch who wins the Nobel Peace Prize. The world need the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle preaching the truth of the Gospel.

  7. Michael Bauman :

    The ghost writer is likely John Chryssavgis.

  8. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    For all their adoration of Rome, they ought to pay closer attention to Rome’s reticence towards any appearance of support of social engineering schemes.

  9. You think this is bad now… just wait until the October 2009 visit of His All Holiness and his environmental cruise down the Mississippi River. Its going to be the equivalent of the “Love Boat” for religious leftists and the blame America crowd.

  10. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, you’re kidding right? He’s actually going to pull a stunt like that? As if we’re already not being taken seriously as it is, now this? Maybe his toadies can join him for an a capella Byzantine chant edition of “Ole Man River.”

  11. Here you go George:

    This EP visit is going to be a wild one for sure. The EP could have a discount book signing of Encountering the Mystery. There are bound to be extra copies at the publisher as sales have been (how do you say Dismal in Greek?)

  12. George Michalopulos :

    I wonder how much the Akorns of St Andrew are shelling out for this boondoggle? More money well-spent.

  13. George,

    Have you not learned anything from 79th Street?

    Its not a boondoggle. The visit of the EP is a economic stimulus for the omogenia. It helps “save” the jobs of the highly paid bureaucrats and professional meeting participants at the Archdiocese. People need something to do you know. What would happen after all if all these brilliant leaders had no place to “work” and had to go back to parish life and minister to the common folk.

    It would be chaos.

  14. George Michalopulos :

    Andrew, very perceptive.

    Broken record alert: I just can’t help shake the feeling that all the money raised over the years, all the wining-and-dining of political leaders, all those photo-ops, haven’t gone to waste. I mean it’s all been for nothing.

    My proof is the speech that President Obama gave in Cairo. We are now led to believe that the Renaissance and Enlightenment came from the Arab world. Where is the legacy of Byzantium? The true Hellenism which was baptized by Christianity (instead of the my-big-fat-greekism of the homogeneia crowd)?

    We have nobody but ourselves to blame. Fr Jensen is correct: we’ve been content to be a minority grievance group here in America, carefully playing the ethnic triumphalist card, agreeing with the secular elitists who are country-blubbres in their heart of hearts, but playing the victim card when called for. Instead of holding up our faith for what it is –Christianity–we have painted ourselves into the corner known as ethnic ghettoism. That’s why nobody takes us seriously.

    How different would it have been had we evangelized? If millions of “Anglo”-Americans had been brought into the Holy Orthodox Church? Instead, we welcomed only the few thousand philhellenes (and then grudgingly). It’s so ironic, had we baptized this country, there would be millions of philhellenes in America. And the people of Greece would recognize it and love us instead of hate us.

    I used to blame our bishops and they do bear a tremendous share of the blame, but in the final analysis, they are no more to blame than the xenophobes who really run the GOA.

    p.s. If you would like to read a great analysis of Western civilization and its dependence upon Classical civilization and Christianty, go to Victor Davis Hanson.

  15. Speaking of Victor Davis Hanson I found the following article on National Review Online today…..

    Here is the money quote in my eyes:

    Obama also claimed that “Islam . . . carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.” While medieval Islamic culture was impressive and ensured the survival of a few classical texts — often through the agency of Arabic-speaking Christians — it had little to do with the European rediscovery of classical Greek and Latin values. Europeans, Chinese, and Hindus, not Muslims, invented most of the breakthroughs Obama credited to Islamic innovation.

    Much of the Renaissance, in fact, was more predicated on the centuries-long flight of Greek-speaking Byzantine scholars from Constantinople to Western Europe to escape the aggression of Islamic Turks. Many romantic thinkers of the Enlightenment sought to extend freedom to oppressed subjects of Muslim fundamentalist rule in eastern and southern Europe.

    George, I think you are correct about the GOA and the Greek Lobby being a failure just like Omogenia before Orthodoxy is a failure. Its clearly apparent in Obama’s speech. I wonder how 79th Street feels about “Islam carrying the light of learning.”

    One thing is also for certain. Given the inability of the leaders of the GOA to articulate any vision of Orthodox Culture, it is apparent then are going to ride the Obamakis express all the way off the cliff.

  16. George Michalopulos :

    Shame, damn shame. Watch for the 79th St Crowd to lavish yet more empty awards on the political and cultural elites. It’s either masochism or insanity, I haven’t quite figured out which.

  17. “all the whining-and-dining of political leaders”

    Joking aside, the perception of Orthodoxy among those who have little experience of it (i.e., almost the entire U.S. population) is exactly as George says: an ethnic ghetto rather than the living embodiment (is there any other kind?) of the Church of the Fathers. It was precisely this assumption that almost led me to dismiss serious consideration of the Orthodox faith when I was first encountered it. It was only after years of extensive, intensive and often exhausting study and conversation (in which the aforementioned Fr. Jensen was incredibly important – as well as unfailingly patient) that everything “came together.” Before that, the faith I had known in both Catholic and Protestant expressions often seemed so compartmentalized and fragmented; Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology, or any other -ology, did not seem integrally connected (except as the cleverness of the theologian or preacher could “make” connections); worse, faith and practice seemed to be completely “uncorrelated;” as a result, the western traditions I knew or studied seemed to have no clear notion as to how saints were formed. Reading Dorotheos and the Desert Fathers back then was both inspiring and shocking: inspiring because their dedication was so clearly evident; shocking because their assumptions and practices were so very foreign to my understanding.

    As the light “turned on” it became clear that not only did I have the wrong “answers,” I was asking the wrong questions. Suddenly (or so it seemed), the Orthodox faith was an incredibly beautiful, seamless garment: one could touch on Christology and immediately see its meaning for soteriology or ecclesiology . . . or any one of a number of other facets of the faith. Far more important, concept and practice were united in a clear process of formation: asceticism, prayer, service and communion were integral to the process of theosis. All of this was – and continues to be – awe-inspiring to me and life-changing. (I am currently re-reading Dorotheos and the Desert Fathers today, and find that now – having been Orthodox for nearly a dozen and a half years, their teaching makes perfect sense. What a wonderful change.)

    Yet at the time I arrived at a deep conviction of the truth of the Orthodox Faith and saw clearly the seamless beauty of the faith – I still resisted attending an actual church because the consensus seemed be that it was primarily an ethnic enclave. Recognizing eventually you must act on the truth to grow in the truth — and that you can not live the Orthodox faith apart from the church — my wife and I finally went to an Orthodox Church. I can still vividly remember walking up to the church doors convinced that we would not be welcomed but that – since this was the Truth and the Church of the Saints, we were going to go anyway.

    We were incredibly blessed to find a wonderful community (Greek in this case) that could not have been more accepting and loving; it exceeded my highest (if barely held) hopes. How many people, I wonder, suffer the loss of this incredible treasure because they believe it is primarily an ethnic club? While it is grossly unfair to be held accountable for someone else’s assumptions, the jurisdictions in America haven’t often provided the “data” needed to contradict this widely-held assumption. (I am not convinced that food fairs contradict this assumption; in my experience, they more often reinforce it. However, since tithing is not widely practiced, such events are vital to the financial well-being of many – most? – parishes.) It seems to me that, had the Orthodox leadership given absolute priority to the faith and tradition, it would have been rather difficult to hide this glorious light under ANY ethnic bushel basket. Ironically, had they done so, the size of the Church in America would be much larger – and, consequently, would exercise much greater influence — influence that Constantinople now so dearly needs.

    When Martha appealed to Jesus for Mary’s help, He responded that Mary had made the right choice — and that it would not be taken from her. Communion with God is the vital thing to choose; it is the one thing that will not be taken from us. Yet there is an important, though unstated corollary: the other choices presumably WOULD be taken from us. And not just us; when we chose to focus on something other than a living faith, it is not just we who suffer, but all those whom we could have blessed thereafter. At moments of great urgency, I am sure that it is easy to forget this. I just hope our leaders are more disciplined and focused in their attentions.

  18. Clue me in, to whom or what is this “the 79th Street” referring?

  19. George Michalopulos :

    That’s where the GOA HQ is located.

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