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Message of His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW on the day of the Protection of the Environment (September 1, 2001)



Brethren and beloved sons and daughters in the Lord,

The designation of the first of September, which marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year and of a new period in the physical cycle of social activities, as a day of prayer for the environment, by the Great Church of Christ, the Mother Church of Constantinople, reveals the great significance for man of the physical world which was created by God.

The double nature of the existence of the human person, consisting of body and soul, or of matter and spirit, according to the “very good” creative will of God, requires the cooperation of man and nature, person and environment. Without this coordination neither the environment is able to serve man according to its destiny, nor is man able to avert the disturbance of natural balances or the obliteration of the natural harmony which God created from him.

Unfortunately, due to his desire to gain power and wealth, man often trespasses the limits of the endurance of nature and subjects it to maltreatment or abuse. On other occasions he transgresses again the commandment of God to the protoplasts to labor and to keep the natural creation and is indifferent to the maintenance of its integrity and natural balance.

The result of this behavior is the disturbance of the natural harmony, and the rebellion, as it were, of the impersonal nature, which produces phenomena that are the exact opposite to those that serve man’s normal life. The radiation of a power that is able to benefit man becomes an explosive potency of inconceivable destruction. The rivers that are meant to be bearers of life-giving water become carriers of destructive floods. The explosive potency of dynamite is transformed from a useful instrument to a power of homicide and total ruin. Rain is changed from a means of irrigation of plants and watering of animals to a cause of drowning and uncontrollable currents. Combustion from energy sources and heat becomes source of atmospheric pollution. In general, the totalities of natural possibilities, which are designed to serve in regular operation man’s natural survival are stretched by man beyond their regular limits and as a result bring to the forefront the avenging powers of abuse, which are released when the permissible use is transformed into a means of satisfaction of human audacity vis-à-vis the limits of nature.

The audacity of the builders of the Tower of Babel produced a break in human understanding and communication. Men’s exclusive turning to the carnal aspect of their being, to the exclusion of the spiritual aspect, brought about the purging cataclysm of Noah’s times. Since then, God refrains from letting natural disaster bring man back to his senses, as the light bow symbolizes. Nevertheless, man continues to pursue his greedy efforts towards forcing nature to mass production and unnatural usage and as a result he procures terrible environmental disasters that primarily damage humanity itself. We may recall here such well-known cases as the environmental calamities incurred by nuclear explosions and radio energy waste, or by toxic rain and polluting spillages. We may also recall here the consequences of the violent feeding of vegetarian animals that is enforced by human audacity in order to produce food from animals that constitutes an insolent overthrow of natural order. It is indeed becoming generally accepted that the overthrow of this natural order in the personal and social life of human beings produces ill reactions to the human organism, such as the contemporary plagues of humanity, cancer, the syndrome of post virus fatigue, heart diseases, anxieties and a multitude of other diseases.

All these bear witness to the fact that it is not God but man that causes contemporary plagues, which attack his well being, since “he is the most disastrous of the disasters” as the ancient tragedy puts it. Thus, if we want to improve the conditions of the material and psychological life of humanity, we are obliged to recognize and to respect the natural order, harmony and balance, and to avoid causing disarray in the natural powers, which are released when the cohesive bond of the universal and particular harmony, especially of the ecological one, is audaciously overturned. Nature was placed by God to the service of man, on the condition, however, that man would respect the laws that pertain to it and would work in it and protect it (cf. Gen. 2:15).

On this particular day, which has been dedicated by the Mother Church to prayer for the natural environment, we supplicate the Lord to restore with his divine and almighty power the natural order wherever human audacity has overturned it, so that humanity might not suffer the tragic consequences of unlawful violations of nature by human actions. We all share responsibility for such tragedies, since we tolerate those immediately responsible for them and accept a portion of the fruit that results such an abuse of nature. Consequently, we need to ask for God’s illumination so that we may come to understand the limit between the use and the abuse of nature and never trespass it.

We wholeheartedly wish that God reveals this to each one of us and gives us wisdom and strength not to trespass it.

The Grace and the rich Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things who established all natural laws, be with you all, my brethren and dear sons and daughters in Christ. Amen.

AD 2001, September the 1st