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Message of His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW on the day of prayer for the Protection of the Environment (September 1, 1998) (September 1, 1996)

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Praise and thanksgiving and glory unto our God, venerated in the Holy Trinity, who has deemed us worthy to celebrate once more the commencement of the ecclesiastical year and the traditional feast of the new Indiction.

By the initiative of our Ecumenical Throne, this first day of September has been established, as is well known, as a day of prayer and supplication for the protection of our surrounding natural world. Indeed, this has become established throughout all of the Orthodox world with the consent and accord of the other Most Holy sister Orthodox  Churches. We are hopeful that, with time, the rest of Christendom will come to embrace the proposition and request hereby expressed, in order that before the imminently expiring second millennium in Christ they too consecrate congruent prayers on the same day, so that as of now, in every land inhabited by humankind, we glorify with thanksgiving in the future the All-Holy name of our God, Creator of heaven and earth.

It has become an established tradition as well that on this auspicious day of celebration our Modesty directs anew to the entire congregation of the Church a paternal admonition toward perpetual prayer for our natural environment, in this way stressing all issues deemed timely and necessary.

It is well known to us all that, unfortunately, many such issues arise each year. Naturally, we do not at all overlook the positive efforts made by many on this account. Yet, we observe, that the ecological problem has become in many respects more complicated and that the ecological darkness has become even more extensive, which is to say that there is still a substantial ignorance of many and skillful propaganda on the part of the  few, who delight in their alliance with the forces of darkness.  These  facts result  in many untruths regarding the ecology, in purposeful concealment and even distortion of the truth on ecological matters and, indeed, ecological terrorism in the form of exaggeration or abusive intervention in the natural order of things, at times even to the point of exercising  interstate threat and violence. This has resulted also in the brutal contravention of international conventions on necessary ecological arrangements and the stubborn refusal to accept the financial burdens of elementary and essential ecological discipline and a plethora of other violations which threaten directly even the very air which surrounds us.

All of this may be summarized in the sorrowful realization that, despite the painful current experiences and the concerted efforts of many, extremely few positive steps have been  made on the arduous path toward a true and stable reconciliation of humankind with our surrounding physical world.

This failure is due, mainly, to the insistence of the greater part of humankind on the false understanding that the ecological problem is foremost a matter of logical connections, expressed and materialized through the means and methods of politics, economy,  technology, and all other human activities.

For all these reasons, it is necessary that the Church steadily call to mind the Evangelical truth on this matter that all of the above deviations represent a violation of the divine disposition of the physical world, which cannot remain unpunished given the deviations of such an anti-life stance.  It is, indeed, necessary for the Church to remind us that, on the contrary, the aforementioned and so imperatively needed reconciliation, whenever and wherever it is accomplished,  represents a par excellence spiritual event.  More precisely, the Church reminds us that it is the blessed fruit of the Holy Spirit, granted  to all who freely and consciously partake in the great mystery of divine love which has followed the creation, and is the reconciliation of God, through Christ, with humankind and the entirety of creation.  This reconciliation is to be understood and experienced through the church, precisely as a settlement : "God in Christ reconciles the world with  Himself, "not considering their trespasses, proclaims Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Nations,  (2 Corinthians 5, 19 ).  This is because all things are derived from God, and in this case  the renewal of all things, of "the new creation," in which we become participants through Holy Baptism, and other sanctifying gifts in the life of the Church.  From God,  who "reconciled us with Himself through Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 5, 18 ).  Moreover, we are all dutifully reminded by the Church that God Himself placed," in us the word of reconciliation "(2 Corinthians 5,19), that He entrusted to us Christians the proclamation of the evangelization Gospel of this joyful message of reconciliation, of the new, loving communion of God with humankind and the world.

Clearly, this is what is most necessary today. It is what is most urgent for the relationship of humankind with the material world: reconciliation in the aforementioned sense. The reconciliation is not merely in a rational manner, for our benefit and material gain, and  further for material prosperity and materialistic good-living.  It is to be understood theologically, that is with humility and repentance which leads to true participation in the beauty of creation, restored through Christ, with which the good of life is connected harmoniously.  And this is so because both the good and beauty share the same source  and causation, which is God Himself, who constitutes the shining beauty of the most extreme divine goodness and beauty.

Yes,  beloved brethren and cherished children in the Lord, it is this which is truly good, to participate in that divine goodness and beauty so that we, too, may say, according to Dionysios Areopagiticus:  "We say it is good to participate in beauty, whereas beauty is participation in that causation which beautifies all good things. This super substantial good is called beauty due to the loveliness which it transmits to all beings, to each one appropriately." (P.G. 3, 701, D).  It is from this divine beauty that our commandment derives that we preserve both the goodness and beauty within us and surrounding us, as the most exalted gifts of God.

For these reasons we, from this Sacred Center of Orthodoxy, salute as a significant fact that the subject chosen for the second Pan-European Ecumenical Assembly, to be held, God willing, in Austria in June of the forthcoming year of our Savior, 1997: "Reconciliation - Gift of God and Source of New Life."

The well-grounded expectation that Christians of Europe dedicate their efforts to the examination of this issue, both separately and in common, forebodes many blessings, among which we expect a clearer sight of divine beauty in nature and a more decisive  involvement of all in its protection and further promotion through the divine gifts and through the multiple  creative forces of humankind.

May the grace of All-Kind God, Who accomplishes this good and concedes beauty, together with our Patriarchal blessings and paternal wishes, be always with all those honoring His great wonders.