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Speech of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew during the Ceremony of the Blessing of the Amazon Waters(July 16, 2006).


In the Orthodox Church the commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord in the waters of the Jordan River constitutes the second most significant feast of the liturgical cycle after the celebration of the Resurrection. The hymns of that day, on January the 6th, proclaim: The nature of waters is sanctified, the earth is blessed, and the heavens are enlightened … so that by the elements of creation, and by the angels, and by human beings, by things both visible and invisible, God’s most holy name may be glorified.

The implication – at least for Christians – is that Jesus Christ assumed human flesh in order to redeem and sanctify every aspect and detail of this world. This is why, on that day each year, Orthodox Christians will reserve and bottle a portion of the blessed water, with which they subsequently return and bless their homes and families, offices and spaces, gardens and animals.
The breadth and depth, therefore, of the Orthodox cosmic vision implies that humanity is only one part of this magnificent epiphany. In this way, the natural environment ceases to be something that we observe objectively and exploit selfishly, instead becoming a celebration of the profound interconnection and essential interdependence of all things, what St. Maximus the Confessor in the 7th century called “a cosmic liturgy”. Thus the future of this planet assumes critical importance for the kingdom of heaven.

In blessing the waters of the great Amazon, we proclaim our belief that environmental protection is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem that concerns all of us. The initial and crucial response to the environmental crisis is for each of us to bear personal responsibility for the way that we live and for the values that we treasure and the priorities that we pursue. To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly. It is a sin against God and creation.

It also constitutes a matter of social and economic justice.  As we mentioned in our opening address, there is a close link between the living conditions of the poor or vulnerable and the ecology of the planet. Those of us living in more affluent nations either consume or corrupt far too much of the earth’s resources. Conservation and compassion are intimately connected. The web of life is a sacred gift of God -- so very precious and so very delicate. We must honour our neighbour and preserve our world with both humility and generosity, in a perspective of frugality and solidarity.
The footprint that we leave on our world must become lighter, much lighter.

When we understand the intimate connection and inter-dependence of all persons and all things in the “cosmic liturgy,” then we can begin to resolve issues of ecology and economy. Then our generation would consider the welfare of future generations. There would be a code of ethics to determine behaviour and trade, and a clear sense of this world as our common responsibility, with us as its caretakers.

This world was created by a loving God, who is – according to the foremost and traditional Symbol of faith in the early Church – “maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” The Judaeo-Christian Scriptures state, in the opening book of Genesis, that “God saw everything that was created good and, indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1.31). How can one stand before the awesome beauty of the Amazon River without recalling this original plan of God?

May God bless this water as He did through His divine presence in the Jordan River. May we all long rejoice in the beauty and sanctification of the waters of this magnificent River.