Address of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Environmental Symposium, Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, Santa Barbara, California
Address of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Environmental Symposium, Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, Santa Barbara, California
Our Beloved Brother in Christ, Archbishop Spyridon of America,
Our Beloved Brother in Christ, Bishop Anthony of San Francisco,
The Honorable Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Bruce Babbitt,
Distinguished Scholars, Learned Guests,
Beloved Friends and Children in the Lord,
It is with deep joy that we greet all of you, the honorable delegates and attendees of this blessed Symposium on the Sacredness of the Environment. Here in this historical city of Santa Barbara, we see before us a brilliant example of the wonder of God's creation. Recently, that God-given beauty was threatened by an oil spill. We are proud that the effort to restore the damaged beauty of Santa Barbara's seas, was led by Orthodox Christians, Dan and Candy Randopoulos.
The Ecumenical Throne of Orthodoxy, as a preserver and herald of the ancient Patristic tradition and of the rich liturgical experience of our Orthodox Church, today renews its long standing commitment to healing the environment. We have followed with great interest and sincere concern, the efforts to curb the destructive effects that human beings have wrought upon the natural world. We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of humanity's disregard for the survival of God's creation.
It is for this reason that our predecessor, the late Patriarch Dimitrios, of blessed memory, invited the whole world to offer, together with the Great Church of Christ, prayers of thanksgiving and supplications for the protection of the natural environment. Since 1989, every September 1st, the beginning of the ecclesiastical calendar has been designated as a day of prayer for the protection of the environment, throughout the Orthodox world.
Since that time, the Ecumenical Throne has organized an Inter-Orthodox Conference in Crete in 1991, and convened annual Ecological Seminars at the historic Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Halki, as a way of discerning the spiritual roots and principles of the ecological crisis. In 1995, we sponsored a symposium, sailing the Aegean to the island of Patmos. The symposium on Revelation and the Environment, AD 95 to 1995, commemorated the 1900th anniversary of the recording of the Apocalypse. We have recently convened under the joint aegis of our Patriarchate and His Eminence Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission a trans-national conference on the Black Sea ecological crisis, that included participation of all the nations that border the sea.
In these and other programs, we have sought to discover the measures that may be implemented by Orthodox Christians worldwide, as leaders desiring to contribute to the solution of this global problem. We believe that through our particular and unique liturgical and ascetic ethos, Orthodox Spirituality may provide significant moral and ethical direction toward a new generation of awareness about the planet.
We believe that Orthodox liturgy and life hold tangible answers to the ultimate questions concerning salvation from corruptibility and death. The Eucharist is at the very center of our worship. And our sin toward the world, or the spiritual root of all our pollution, lies in our refusal to view life and the world as a sacrament of thanksgiving, and as a gift of constant communion with God on a global scale.
We envision a new awareness that is not mere philosophical posturing, but a tangible experience of a mystical nature. We believe that our first task is to raise the consciousness of adults who most use the resources and gifts of the planet. Ultimately, it is for our children that we must perceive our every action in the world as having a direct effect upon the future of the environment. At the heart of the relationship between man and environment is the relationship between human beings. As individuals, we live not only in vertical relationships to God, and horizontal relationships to one another, but also in a complex web of relationships that extend throughout our lives, our cultures and the material world. Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of existence; a complex fabric that we believe is fashioned by God.
People of all faith traditions praise the Divine, for they seek to understand their relationship to the cosmos. The entire universe participates in a celebration of life, which St. Maximos the Confessor described as a "cosmic liturgy." We see this cosmic liturgy in the symbiosis of life's rich biological complexities. These complex relationships draw attention to themselves in humanity's self-conscious awareness of the cosmos. As human beings, created "in the image and likeness of God" (Gen. 1:26), we are called to recognize this interdependence between our environment and ourselves. In the bread and the wine of the Eucharist, as priests standing before the altar of the world, we offer the creation back to the creator in relationship to Him and to each other. Indeed, in our liturgical life, we realize by anticipation, the final state of the cosmos in the Kingdom of Heaven. We celebrate the beauty of creation, and consecrate the life of the world, returning it to God with thanks. We share the world in joy as a living mystical communion with the Divine. Thus it is that we offer the fullness of creation at the Eucharist, and receive it back as a blessing, as the living presence of God.
Moreover, there is also an ascetic element in our responsibility toward God's creation. This asceticism requires from us a voluntary restraint, in order for us to live in harmony with our environment. Asceticism offers practical examples of conservation.
By reducing our consumption, in Orthodox Theology "encratia" or self-control, we come to ensure that resources are also left for others in the world. As we shift our will we demonstrate a concern for the third world and developing nations. Our abundance of resources will be extended to include an abundance of equitable concern for others.
We must challenge ourselves to see our personal, spiritual attitudes in continuity with public policy. Encratia frees us of our self-centered neediness, that we may do good works for others. We do this out of a personal love for the natural world around us. We are called to work in humble harmony with creation and not in arrogant supremacy against it. Asceticism provides an example whereby we may live simply.
Asceticism is not a flight from society and the world, but a communal attitude of mind and way of life that leads to the respectful use, and not the abuse of material goods. Excessive consumption may be understood to issue from a world-view of estrangement from self, from land, from life, and from God. Consuming the fruits of the earth unrestrained, we become consumed ourselves, by avarice and greed. Excessive consumption leaves us emptied, out-of-touch with our deepest self. Asceticism is a corrective practice, a vision of repentance. Such a vision will lead us from repentance to return, the return to a world in which we give, as well as take from creation.
We invite Orthodox Christians to engage in genuine repentance for the way in which we have behaved toward God, each other, and the world. We gently remind Orthodox Christians that the judgement of the world is in the hands of God. We are called to be stewards, and reflections of God's love by example. Therefore, we proclaim the sanctity of all life, the entire creation being God's and reflecting His continuing will that life abound. We must love life so that others may see and know that it belongs to God. We must leave the judgement of our success to our Creator.
We lovingly suggest to all the people of the earth, that they seek to help one another to understand the myriad ways in which we are related to the earth, and to one another. In this way, we may begin to repair the dislocation many people experience in relation to creation.
We are of the deeply held belief, that many human beings have come to behave as materialistic tyrants. Those that tyrannize the earth are themselves, sadly, tyrannized. We have been called by God, to "be fruitful, increase and have dominion in the earth" (Gen 1:28). Dominion is a type of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus it is that St. Basil describes the creation of man in paradise on the 6th day, as being the arrival of a king in his palace. Dominion is not domination, it is an eschatological sign of the perfect Kingdom of God, where corruption and death are no more.
If human beings treated one another's personal property the way they treat their environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social. We would impose the judicial measures necessary to restore wrongly appropriated personal possessions. It is therefore appropriate, for us to seek ethical, legal recourse where possible, in matters of ecological crimes.
It follows that, to commit a crime against the natural world, is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation For humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands For humans to injure other humans with disease for humans to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances These are sins.
In prayer, we ask for the forgiveness of sins committed both willingly and unwillingly. And it is certainly God's forgiveness, which we must ask, for causing harm to His Own Creation.
Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment, which was blessed with Beauty and created by God. Then we may also begin to participate responsibly, as persons making informed choices in both the integrated whole of creation, and within our own souls.
In just a few weeks the world's leaders will gather in Kyoto, Japan, to determine what, if anything, the nations of the world will commit to do, to halt climate change. There has been much debate back and forth about who should, and should not have to change the way they use the resources of the earth. Many nations are reluctant to act unilaterally. This self-centered behavior is a symptom of our alienation from one another, and from the context of our common existence.
We are urging a different and, we believe, a more satisfactory ecological ethic. This ethic is shared with many of the religious traditions represented here. All of us hold the earth to be the creation of God, where He placed the newly created human "in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to guard it" (Genesis 2:15). He imposed on humanity a stewardship role in relationship to the earth. How we treat the earth and all of creation defines the relationship that each of us has with God. It is also a barometer of how we view one another. For if we truly value a person, we are careful as to our behavior toward that person. The dominion that God has given humankind over the Earth does not extend to human relationships. As the Lord said, "You know that the rulers of the Nations lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mat. 20:25-28).
It is with that understanding that we call on the world's leaders to take action to halt the destructive changes to the global climate that are being caused by human activity. And we call on all of you here today, to join us in this cause. This can be our important contribution to the great debate about climate change. We must be spokespeople for an ecological ethic that reminds the world that it is not ours to use for our own convenience. It is God's gift of love to us and we must return his love by protecting it and all that is in it.
We congratulate our Brother in Christ, Bishop Anthony, Fr. Constantine Zozos, and all those who initiated, organized, addressed, and participated in this important Symposium. It is our fervent and sincere prayer that this will become a focal point for further theological reflection and practical action throughout the parishes of this Holy Archdiocese of America, all the Orthodox Churches in this great land, and all Americans of goodwill. We are especially thankful for the presence of Secretary Bruce Babbit and the commitment that President Clinton and Vice-President Gore have made toward sound ecological policy.
The Lord suffuses all of creation with His Divine presence in one continuous legato from the substance of atoms to the Mind of God. Let us renew the harmony between heaven and earth, and transfigure every detail, every particle of life. Let us love one another, and lovingly learn from one another, for the edification of God's people, for the sanctification of God's creation, and for the glorification of God's most holy Name. Amen.
Address During the Presentation Ceremony of the Sophie Prize
Most Reverend Hierarchs,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please accept our humble and sincere gratitude for the honor bestowed on our Modesty with the presentation of the 2002 Sophie Prize. We would like to stress from the outset that we consider this honor as belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which we serve as Primate.
All of our efforts to cultivate a sense of environmental responsibility and to promote genuine reconciliation among people comprise the immediate responsibility and initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has served the truth of Christ for some seventeen centuries. Our Church regards the sensitization of its faithful in relation to the natural environment and in regard to the development of inter-religious dialogue as a central and essential part of its ministry of solidarity and co-existence.
We thank you wholeheartedly for the gracious invitation to address this auspicious occasion on one of the most critical global issues of our time: namely, the ecological crisis that we face. We still recall the recent news in regard to government representatives who did not come to an agreement about measures to be taken. This means that nations, which have the privilege of freely choosing their rulers, have not yet reached the point of environmental sensitivity demanded of their governments in regard to the cost involved. Therefore, having voluntarily assumed the effort of sensitizing people's conscience in the face of this crisis, we readily admit how much work there still remains.
First of all, we must stress that it is not any fear of impending disasters that obliges us to assume such initiatives. Rather, it is the recognition of the harmony that should exist between our attitudes and actions on the one hand, and the laws of nature, which govern the universe, on the other hand. These laws have been established by the supreme personal Being, a Being that we call Trinitarian God that loves and is loved.
From the outset, we should state that we outrightly reject dualist opinions claiming that the world is the creation of evil, and is consequently evil. Furthermore, we also reject those opinions supporting the notion that material creation pre-existed and was simply fashioned by God, or the choice of others to believe that the body is the prison of the soul, which seeks to be liberated from the bonds of the former. Finally, we reject any opinions that demote humanity into a fragmented part of our earthly ecosystem, rendering it equivalent to every other part, and undeserving of any greater protection than that afforded to other species.
It is our conviction – and the truth of our conviction has been experientially confirmed – that both the material and spiritual worlds, visible and invisible things alike, are, according to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol of our Creed, a "very good" creation by the good and loving God. On the basis, then, of such a conviction, we are able to articulate the fundamental principles of our worldview.
We believe that the human person constitutes the crown of creation, endowed with the sacred features of self-conscience, freedom, love, knowledge and will. Such a teaching is part and parcel of our creation "according to the image and likeness of God."
We believe that the natural creation is a gift from God to the world, entrusted to humanity as its governor, provider, steward, and priest, in accordance with the commandments "to work and keep it," as well as to abstain from it partially. In this way, we admit the limitations as well as the responsibilities of humanity with regard to the natural environment.
We believe that the universe comprises a single harmony or "cosmos," according to the classical Greek significance of this term, which implies a harmonious coordination of human will and human action on the basis of natural and spiritual laws established by the discerning, loving, and perfecting will of the divine Word.
We believe that humanity did not wish to coordinate personal will and universal harmony, in accordance with the divine plan. Instead, it preferred to pursue independence, resulting in the creation of a new order and different pattern within the natural environment – commonly referred to as anthropocentrism, but more properly identified as anthropomonism.
We believe that a New Man, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, appeared in the world, demonstrating perfect obedience to the original plan of the Father with regard to the relationship between humanity and the world. Jesus Christ reconciled the world to the Father. Henceforth, the world functions harmoniously through Him and in Him. He commanded us to use the world's resources in a spirit of ascetic restraint and eucharistic sacrifice, to transform our way of thinking from egocentrism to altruism in light of the ultimate end of the world. In the Greek language, again, the word for "end" (telos) implies both conclusion and purpose.
These brief principles describe our attitude and concern for the natural environment. We are endowed with freedom and responsibility; all of us, therefore, bear the consequences of our choices in our use or abuse of the natural environment. Yet, we also have the capacity to repent and the ability to reduce the damage of our actions in the world. We know, however, that the complete reconciliation and ultimate recapitulation of the world can only occur through Jesus Christ at the end of time.
Until then, God's unceasing love allows us only glimpses of that total reconciliation, to which we partially contribute when we abandon the abusive violation of nature and to accept it as a divine gift of love, treating it reasonably, gratefully, and fruitfully. Such is our dutiful response to the loving Creator, as well as to all those with whom we share this divine gift.
To imagine a world that functions in beauty and harmony, balance and purpose, in accordance with the overflowing love of God, is to cry out in wonder with the Psalmist, "How great are Your works, O Lord; You have fashioned all things in wisdom."
Our original privilege and calling as human beings lies precisely in our ability to appreciate the world as God's gift to us. And our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies – not in any legalistic transgression, but – precisely in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion with God and neighbor. We have been endowed with a passion for knowledge and wisdom, which open before us boundless worlds of the microcosm and the macrocosm, and present us with boundless challenges of creative action and intervention.
The arrogance that destroyed the Tower of Babel, through the misuse of power and knowledge, always lurks as a temptation. The natural energy wrought by the sun as a blessing on the earth can prove perilous when profaned by the hands of irresponsible scientists. The interventions of geneticists, which arouse enthusiasm in their potential, have not been exhaustively explored with a view to their side effects.
We are not opposed to knowledge but we underline the importance of proceeding with discernment. We also stress the possible dangers of premature intervention, which may lead to "the desire to become greater than the gods" (Euripides), which the classical Greeks described as "hubris." Such discord destroys the inner harmony that characterizes the beauty and glory of the world, which St. Maximus the Confessor called "a cosmic liturgy."
Our prayer and purpose join the priest in the Divine Liturgy, who chants the words: "In offering to You, Your own of Your own, on behalf of all and for the sake of all – we praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, O Lord, and we pray to You, our God." Then, we are able to embrace all – not with fear or necessity, but with love and joy. Then, we care for the plants and for the animals, for the trees and for the rivers, for the mountains and for the seas, for all human beings and for the whole natural environment. Then, we discover joy – rather than inflicting sorrow – in our life and in our world. Then, we are creating instruments of life and not tools of death. Then, creation on the one hand and humanity on the other hand, the one that encompasses and the one that is encompassed, cooperate and correspond. Then, they are no longer in contradiction or in conflict. Then, just as humanity offers creation in an act of priestly service and sacrifice to God, so also does creation offer itself in return as a gift to humanity. Then, everything becomes an exchange, an abundance, and a fulfillment of love.
It is our sincere hope that our hearts may receive and return the natural environment to the Divine Creator with gratitude. It is our fervent prayer that our hands may minister to this divine gift of the environment in a celebration of thanksgiving. Amen.