Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop, Ecumenical Patriarchate
I am glad to be able to participate at this meeting where believers are united around one common denomination: the love for ones neighbor! In a time where fundamental values are trampled and where human life has become a tradable in the dramatic situation of migrants, where Christians are exterminated and chased away from the regions that have been the cradle of Christianity, the three days of our meeting constitute a lighthouse in the unchained ocean of passions in our time.
We can only be happy that the topic we are so concerned about in this lovely city of Tirana is one of the major battle points of our ecumenical Patriarch. Early on he desired to join forces to awaken consciences worldwide about the ever more worrying phenomenon of the destruction of our environment. His dedicated commitment and his tenacity on the topic soon justified his nickname as the Green Patriarch.
Your name, o Lord, is admirable on the whole of the earth, Your supreme majesty surpasses the heavens, the whole creation is filled with your praise, You the Highest, You have willingly submitted the earth, the sea and what is in it, You have allowed us to travel in the air; grant us also the wisdom and the power to rule them rightly and to keep without pollution what has been entrusted to us to praise it as our Creator, You, the Master who loves us, through the centuries. (Vespers, September 1st).
The world has been created by God because He desired it. And thus the world is perfect in its structure: balance, dimension, and layout. Amazement! The world carries divine wisdom in itself. Seeing the world, one faces Gods genius.
The world carries Gods mark. Every object is in its place as an immense puzzle, where every piece is indispensable to the preceding and necessary for the following. As a musical work, a perfect symphony, a resounding harmony. The immensely great and the immensely small!
Our relationship with the universe is a continuous line. Man is an integral part of the world, leaving it is making it unnatural. Since the world is nature, making men unnatural, is to dehumanize him! Created from dust, we return to dust: each of the billions of billions of elements we are composed of returns to the animal, vegetal and mineral world. We have been created from thousands of stars!
Mankind summarizes the whole of creation within him. Created as image of God and resembling God, man is the mirror of the world, the connection between what surrounds us and the Creator.
• The beauty of a landscape that takes your breath away and makes your eyes teary,
• The clear blue and the calming green,
• The colors that ease, that calm,
• The sound of a refreshing waterfall,
• The hypnotizing coming and going of waves, …
Man is a ladder between nature and God. If God created through the Word, the world is Gods language towards man. «Thus the cosmos not only has as its goal to converge, through the passage of time, towards a situation that allows the manifestation of man, the earth is not just there to meet our needs, the cosmos, the earth are called to become a dialogue between man and God. The world is Gods language towards man. It can become mans language towards God. ».
«Do not displace without discernment the bounds of nature, do not think that insolence remains unpunished, since you will reap destruction as the rightful salary of your lack of sense.. » (Matins, September 1st)
Every time a power is given to humankind, it will give in to the temptation to use its power at the cost of others, to use it to impose its superiority, to transform the other at his service, enslaving him.
God gives children to parents so that they would be their guardians, advisors, tutors. They turn this mandate into an act of possession: the children become their objects and have to follow their aspirations, accomplish their dreams and desires, the possessive pronoun dominates: my children, my son, my daughter…
The same way God gives nature to humankind, establishes man as masters of this nature, using it with respect for what has been given.
« What is Yours, we give back to You, Lord, You have given us all these wonders as a gift coming from you, a present that encompasses You. We will take care of it and will return it to You». However, we have also transformed this given mandate into a destructive madness.
However, the Eucharist of our Divine Liturgy invites every believer to share at the Common Table. Communicating the Flesh and Blood of the Lord, we share Christ with thousands of men and women on the planet. And this sharing is without restriction.
How can I be happy when my brother is not? How can I be full when my brother is hungry? Through the traditions of our Church Fathers we are called to fight this way of life of excessive consumption, leading to waste and to the looting of our planet.
We have no excuse at this time where information travels so fast. We can no longer ignore that this planet is in danger. Since august 19th 2015, humankind has entered an ecological deficit, since the world population has consumed the totality of the natural resources the Earth is capable of renewing in the space of a year.
It is very simple: « we are sawing off the branch we are sitting on », … and nobody is laughing anymore.
For various decades, scientists are accumulating evidence of the negative impact of men’s actions on nature’s development and the irreversible destruction that follows. The economic interest and the refusal to change this way of life, as well as the blindness of a group of rich people, have discredited these scientists’ allegations.
The Orthodox Church did not await the remarks of scientists to act and take initiatives.
On the 6th of June 1989, the Holy Synod, under presidency of his Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios had to take a decision that would mark the course of history: he declared the 1th of September the Day of creation.
Everything started progressively in the middle of the eighties.
In 1986, in Chambésy, the third Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference wanted to express its anxiety towards the abuse of the environment, mostly in the Western societies.
Following a series of inter-Orthodox meetings, congresses and publications - with the active participation of His Eminence the Metropolitan Genadios of Sassime - about justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
In 1988, when the Monastery of the author of the Apocalypse celebrated 9 centuries of its existence, a congress took place on the island of Patmos, under the joint auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Hellenic ministry of culture with the central theme of «The Apocalypse and the future of Humanity». His Eminence the Metropolitan Jean de Pergame, who was the designated patriarchal representative, was to make a remarkable speech, hereby opening the way for the Synod of 1989, and the first official encyclical on the environment.
With this encyclical, the Orthodox world was to celebrate the 1st of September not only as the first day of the ecclesial year, but also as a day of prayer for the protection of the environment:
The next year, the great hymnographe of Mont Athos, Hiéromoine Gérassime Mikragiannanitis, composed an office for this feast of Creation.
Barely one month after his election and his enthronement, His Holiness our ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew convened an ecological congress in Crete, thus inaugurating a close and high level cooperation between prince Philip of Great Britain and the President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Different congresses followed international meetings and seminars: five seminars at Chalki (1992 to 1998) with the participation of theologians and high level environmental specialists. Then there are the many and degrees of different universities that will be assigned to His Holiness in recognition of his efforts and initiatives in favor of the environment.
«Docteur Honoris causa» of the university of Aegae (1994), Athens, Edinburgh, Yale ; the prize «Sophie de Norvège», the «Scenic Hudson» Award of the United States of America: so many distinctions that will honor His Holiness and justify his title of Green Patriarch, but also make the ecumenical throne known to the consciences of the world.
Convinced that the environmental anxieties, nested in an interfaith and scientific dialogue could only be beneficial, in 1994 His Holiness founded the «Religious and Scientific Committee», which presidency was entrusted to His Eminence the Metropolitan Jean de Pergame and its management to the tireless Mss Maria Beket. It is under their impulse that the international, interfaith and inter-scientific cruises took place: on Patmos in 1995, on the Black Sea in 1997, on the Danube in 1999, on the Adriatic Sea in 2002 (signing of the «Charter of Venice» with the late Pope John Paul II), on the Baltic Sea in 2003, on the Amazone River in Brazil in 2006, in the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and finally on the Mississippi in the USA in 2009.
Today, the Orthodox Church is happy to see the sister Roman Catholic church join this idea of the protection of the environment. His Holiness Pope Francis launches a vibrant appeal for the awaking of conscience about this topic in his new Encyclical «Laudato si’, about the salvation of our common house».
Among other things he writes: Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation». (….)
At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with
generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, in an asceticism which entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. (end of quotation).
Our behavior of today is criminal. We live in sin, more and more distant from God, isolating ourselves in our self sufficiency and our blindness. We think we know everything and to have all the rights. We have turned the power of management into the power of destruction. Is it necessary to recall our consumption frenzy? We do not repair anymore, that is too expensive, it is better to buy a new object! Everything for the well being, the comfort and the way of life of a small part of humanity: 30 % of the world population consumes 89 % of the world’s production. A million human beings suffers a lack of food, 400 millions are in immediate danger, 20 million die each year of hunger, that means 60.000 people a day!
Our bulimic consumption has become pathological, in view of the profits an enterprise has to realize every year in order to be «profitable»! The run for profit, hoarding wealth with disdain for God’s image in view of the other. My ego, my life for your death: how many dollars is a life worth in the eyes of a human trafficker who fills a rubber boat and sends hundreds of men, women and children to an almost certain death?
There is no room for the other because our ego is taking up all space. Where to put God? Why take care of nature? For the denatured man it can be nothing else than a tool to serve Satan.
Why worry about the melting icecap that deprives thousands of seals of floes? Because we are a part of all things created! We all have our responsibility and in our daily life we should be aware that the Lord will call us to account.
May my prayer join yours to retrieve our communion with nature, that gift that the Lord has given us, through the centuries and centuries.