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


[Translation from the Greek original]

Protocol No. 1048


Brethren and Beloved children in the Lord,

The Holy Orthodox Church, accepting that the entire creation is very good, finds itself in a harmonious relationship with the natural world, which surrounds the king of creation, the human being.  Even though the human being, either as an isolated individual or as collective humanity, is only a minuscule speck in the face of the immense universe, it is a fact that the entire universe is endowed with meaning by the very presence of humanity within it.  Based on this assurance, even leading contemporary scientists accept that the universe is infused with the so-called "human principle," meaning that it came about and exists for the sake of man.

Consequently, the stance of man before his Creator, the all-good God, should have been one of thanksgiving for the abundant wealth which his Maker has placed at his disposal.  However, man loved creation more than his Creator and did not return his debt of.  Rather, man made an idol of himself and desired to be transformed into a wasteful ruler of creation, without accountability, instead of being a rational and grateful consumer of it.  Moreover, he was often not satisfied even with wasteful manipulation but schemed to use the tremendous forces contained within nature for the destruction of his fellow men and even of nature itself.  From the earliest days when Cain murdered Abel, at which point man altered the staff formerly used for support into a rod of assault, he now tries to use every element as a weapon.  Thus, he was not satisfied with using elements which God granted him in abundance -- such as copper, bronze, and iron, etc. -- to produce of tools for a peaceful life.  Rather, using all recent scientific discoveries, he fashioned from these elements weapons of murder and a system of human annihilation.  Unfortunately, he continues to use these weapons.  We, therefore, see gunpowder, nitroglycerine, atomic and nuclear energy, chemical gasses, bacterial and every kind of micro-organism and disease-causing factors, being mobilized and gathered into super-modern arsenals, for the purpose of using them as a threat to coerce others into submission as well as a means of active annihilation of those who do not submit.

Consequently, neither is the rebellion of nature against man a strange coincidence,  nor is the continuous exhortation of the Orthodox Church that we should not love the world, which has been led astray from its divine purpose and those things in the world, but that we should love God (1 John 2:15).  In this way, we can enjoy the things of the world with blessing and thanksgiving in Christ through whom we have received reconciliation (Romans 5:11). 

Nature, which rebelled against man, who abuses her, no longer finds itself in that perfect divine harmony, whose marvellous melody comes from the well-rhythmed orbits of the heavenly bodies and the changing seasons of the year.  Were it not for the good souls of the saints who hold together the cohesion of the world, perhaps the revenge of nature for the inhumanities we force it to bear upon our fellow men, would be even more lamentable for those people who improperly use its powers against their fellow men.

In light of the above, on this the first day of September in the year of our salvation 1998, which is dedicated to the natural environment, we invite and urge all to convert the tremendous destructive forces which have accumulated on earth -- a planet small in size, but great in evil and in insurmountable virtue -- into creative and peaceful forces.

Unfortunately, the coercion of nature to act destructively against itself and the human race does not come out of the will of certain evil leaders, as supported by those who wish to deny their own responsibility.  It also comes from the consenting will of thousands of individuals, without whose psychological support these leaders would not be able to accomplish anything.  Consequently, the responsibility of each and every living person on the face of the earth flows out of his conscious acceptance or rejection of what has been accomplished.  It is through this acceptance or rejection that he participates in the formation of the predominant will.  From this point of view, everyone, even the most feeble, can contribute to the restoration of the harmonious renewed operation of the world.  We can do so by being in tune with the forces of the divine harmony and not with those which are badly dissonant and oppose the divine all-harmonious rhythm of the universal instrument, of which each one of us constitutes but one of its practically innumerable chords.

Our love for nature does not seek to idolize it; rather, our love for it stems from our love for the Creator who grants it to us.  This love is expressed through offering in thanksgiving of all things to God, to whom we, having been reconciled through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19), enjoy also our reconciliation with nature.  Without our reconciliation with God, the forces of nature find themselves in opposition to us.  We already experience consequences of this and are subjected to them.  Therefore, in order to avert the escalation of evil and to correct that which may already have taken place, and in order to suspend the penalty, we are obligated to accept the fact that we need to be accountable consumers of nature and not arbitrary rulers of it.  We must also accept the fact that, in the final analysis, the demand placed on nature to use its powers to destroy our fellow man, whom we might consider useless, will result in our facing the same consequences.

Finally, for these things, we fervently pray to the Lord God that He may show forbearance for our transgressions; that He may grant us time for repentance; and that He may shine in our hearts the light of His truth.  This we ask in order that on the issue of the environment, and in each of the paths we find before us in life, we may advance in concord with His all-wise, all-harmonious order of the entire creation as it was decreed by Him.  Otherwise, our discordant journey leads to our demise.

May the grace and infinite mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all and on all peoples.  Amen.

      September 1, 1998
Your beloved brother in Christ
and fervent supplicant before God,
+ Bartholomew