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.
The Fragile Beauty of the World: Opening Address by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Sixth Religion, Science and Environment Symposium
It is with great pleasure that we welcome you all, dignitaries and delegates, to the official opening of Symposium VI, entitled "Amazon, Source of Life." Since 1995, five water-borne symposia have been organized in major water bodies of Europe: the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Danube River, the Adriatic Sea, and the Baltic Sea. The participation of regional and international representatives of the scientific, religious, and media worlds ensure that the message and outcomes of our symposium, with regard to crucial and specific issues will be brought to the attention of the world community. The present Symposium is honoured by the joint patronage of His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations.
This symposium is in many ways both historical and unique. It is the first time that our initiatives have ventured beyond European boundaries but our gathering underlines – on a broader, global level – the critical role of the Amazon River for the future of our planet. This river comprises a microcosm of our planet. In its waters, we observe many of the world's ecological issues. We are humbled in its presence. We have come to listen to its story, to learn from its history, to admire its fragile beauty, and to gain hope for the entire world from its resilience.
We are conscious of the consequences of human activity on the Brazilian rainforest. Environmental issues are very much at the forefront of daily news. We hear of air and water pollution, of global warming and the threatened extinction of numerous animal or plant species. The statistics are indeed alarming. How should we react? What do they mean for development, and for the ways we are accustomed to living?
Every product we make and enjoy (from the paper we work with, to processed meat and the soy beans that sustain its industry), every tree we fell, every building we construct, every road we travel, definitively and permanently alters creation. At the basis of this alteration – or perhaps we should characterize it as abuse – of creation is a fundamental difference between human, natural, and divine economies. In the Orthodox tradition, the phrase "divine economy" is used to describe God's extraordinary acts of love and providence toward humanity and creation. "Economy" is derived from the Greek word "oikonomia," which implies the management of an environment or household (oikos), which is also the root of the word "ecology" (oikologia). Let us consider, however, the radical distinction between the various kinds of economy. Our economy tends to use and discard; natural economy is normally cyclical and replenishes; God's economy is always compassionate and nurturing. Nature's economy is profoundly violated by our wasteful economy, which in turn constitutes a direct offence to the divine economy. The prophet Ezekiel again recognized this abuse of the natural eco-systems when he observed:
Is it not enough to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest with your feet? Is it not sufficient to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (34,18)
Our perspective is neither that of a scientist nor that of an economist; our principles are derived from the altar of the Church and the heart of theology. In this respect, the liturgy provides for us a mystical basis for a broader, spiritual worldview. It both reflects the way we respond to creation and moulds the way we respect creation.
Perhaps no other place in the world reflects so apparently or records so articulately both the sacred beauty of creation and the consequences of human choices. A spiritual worldview should inform our concept of creation and define our conduct within this world. This worldview is neither a political plan nor an economic strategy. It is essentially a way of reflecting on what it means to perceive the world through the lens of the soul.
Let us consider our own presence on this great river. The question we must address to ourselves in all honesty is: have we come here as pilgrims or as travellers? What have we come here to see?
Seeing clearly is precisely what the liturgy teaches us to do. Our eyes are opened to see the beauty of created things. The world of the liturgy reveals the eternal dimension in all that we see and experience. It enables us to hear new sounds and behold new images as we travel along the Amazon River. It creates in us a mystical appreciation and genuine affection for everything that surrounds us. The truth is that we have been inexorably locked within the self-centered confines of our own individual concerns with no access to the world beyond us. We have violated the sacred covenant between our selves, our world, and our God.
The liturgy restores this covenant; it reminds us of another way and of another world. It offers a corrective to a wasteful, consumer culture that gives value only to the here and now. The liturgy converts the attentive person from a restricted, limited point of view to a fuller, spiritual vision "in Him through whom all things live, move, and have their being" (Acts 17.28). It provides for us another means of comprehension and communication. The liturgy is the eternal celebration of the fragile beauty of this world.
In practical terms, this would naturally imply a way of life that would be respectful of the divine presence in creation. We should not be blindfolded by personal interests, but be sensitive to the sacredness of every peninsula and every island, every river and every stream, every basin and every landscape.
If we are guilty of relentless waste, it is because we have lost the spirit of liturgy and worship. We are no longer respectful pilgrims on this earth; we have been reduced to careless consumers or passing travellers. How tragic it would be, for us all as delegates of this symposium, if we were simply to pass through the Amazon, like the indifferent priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We must be responsible and responsive citizens of the world; we must be careful and caring pilgrims in this land. If we are not in fact moved to compassion, bandaging the wounds of the earth, assuming personal care, and contributing to the painful costs, then we might easily be confronted with the question, which of these do you resemble: the Good Samaritan or the indifferent priest?
The liturgy guides us to a life that sees more clearly and shares more fairly, moving away from what we want as individuals to what the world needs globally. This in turn requires that we move away from greed and control and gradually value everything for its place in creation and not simply its economic value to us, thereby restoring the original beauty of the world, seeing all things in God and God in all things.
Esteemed dignitaries and fellow participants, perhaps for the first time in the history of our world, we recognize that our decisions and choices immediately impact the environment. Today, we are able to direct our actions in a caring and compassionate way. It is up to us to shape our future; it is up to us to choose our destiny.
Breaking the vicious circle of ecological degradation is a choice with which we are uniquely endowed, at this crucial moment in the history of our planet. This conference is a golden opportunity for us to recognize the unique role of every individual and every organization, in order that we may respect those more vulnerable in this situation, and in order that we may be prepared to assume responsibility for the health of our planet, an issue of critical significance and urgency.
As we officially declare the opening of Symposium VI: "Amazon, Source of Life," may we all be inspired by grace and justice, guided by reason and responsibility, and filled with selflessness and compassion. May we be poised in the expectation to learn from the fragile beauty of God's creation, and from the unparalleled dynamism of the great Amazon River.