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Interview given by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW to “The Irish Times” (28 January 2005)

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Q.- Why are you concerned with the environment?a

A.- There are those that believe that the Christian Church only cares for life beyond death. The actual truth is that, though of course she does primarily devote herself to man and to his eternal salvation, she is also concerned with man’s life on this earth and with all of creation. Here is why:
The Church cherishes all of creation because God put man in terrestrial Paradise “to dress it and to keep it”, deriving the necessities for life from his “dressing” nature, thus causing her to produce the goods that are useful to him. Therefore nature does not remain entirely pristine, unaltered by man’s activities, nor does she have equal value with man, as some would maintain. She is an instrument for his use, and a property for his usufruct.
But in respect of this use, God has posed certain limits for man that he ought not overstep. The limits are implicit in the “keeping” which means “not ravaging”. Therefore, man’s “dressing” of creation must not be destructive, but must revitalise and assist nature. Man must help nature to produce, and to renew herself: in other words he must preserve unharmed her own productive and revitalising forces.
This duty remained for many centuries beyond the scope of careful study, because the harmful effects of human intervention upon nature had not become widespread. But in recent times, as modern technology, and heavy industry with its pollutants, brought about major natural disasters and extensive environmental pollution, people of uncommon sensibility and perspicacity felt the need to react and to draw everybody’s attention to the dangers that imperil humanity.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate and we personally support and sustain the effort to cause Governments, industry, and ordinary people to become aware of the need to preserve the natural environment and the ecosystems of our planet, so as to keep it alive and in good health, that it may continue to yield its fruit in a sustainable manner. To this end, impelled by love of humanity rather than as under bondage to nature, we do our utmost, as far as it is possible, to engage in relevant actions. With the past presidents of the European Commission we have jointly held a number of environmental symposia in the Aegean and the Black Sea, on the Danube, in the Adriatic and the Baltic Sea. We have held several summer seminars in Halki on environmental issues. We have participated in a great number of environmental conferences all over the world. We have designated the 1st September of each year as a day of prayer for the environment. And we have often spoken and written of our duty to “keep” the environment.
The fruit of all these efforts may not be measured, for there are indeed many other sensible people, engaged in such work. We believe that these common efforts engaged in by all that are concerned over the environment, be they people, organizations or governments, will improve the situation and avert major environmental disasters, and make a contribution towards restoring to health certain areas of the planet that have been damaged or are at risk. That is what we hope for with all our heart so that, according to the wishes of God who is good, man’s life on earth may be better. May it be so.