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22.5.07

The Halki Ecological Institute (June 5, 1999)

To the participants, facilitators, trainers, staff, organizers, volunteers, and sponsors of The Halki Ecological Institute, our Modesty's beloved spiritual children in the Lord: Grace and peace from God the Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.

"And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters."  [Genesis 1:2]

God, His Spirit hovering over the waters, moved beyond Himself in order to create from chaos all that is "good".  Out of His love, He created the cosmos in all its grandeur, grace, and beauty; and in this cosmos He envisioned a pure and harmonious world, a world of blessedness and abundance, and so He created it.  Despite the fact that humankind rejected and continues to reject this purpose and design, God remains faithful to His vision.  Although humankind has marred creation, stripping it of its original splendor by our carelessness, God continues to invite us back to Eden and forward to His Kingdom by showing us how to live these realities in the present.  Ultimately, this is the purpose of our life as God's servants.  Our sacramental life, ascetic practices, values, beliefs, and principles all serve to direct us along this path.  

Navigating through the turbulent waters of life, the Church seeks to collaborate with God in His work of creation by filling the "void" and shining forth the radiant light of Christ on the "darkness" that sin has brought upon the world.  This is why the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the past years has undertaken significant projects aimed at raising environmental awareness world wide and encouraging people locally to deal with the ecological problems they face, problems which are first and foremost spiritual.  The Halki Ecological Institute, an interdisciplinary learning opportunity for clergy, scientists, educators, journalists, and students, is one such initiative born of our previous multidisciplinary environmental consultations, in particular "Symposium II: 'The Black Sea in Crisis'."  Our aim is to establish an environmental network throughout the Black Sea region involving all these disciplines and so it is with great enthusiasm that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in collaboration with the committee of "Religion, Science, and the Environment", launches this inaugural session of The Halki Ecological Institute.  We take profound spiritual pride in the institution of this new and bold environmental project and wish to commend and thank our Sister Orthodox Churches from around the Black Sea who have embraced this program from its inception and have worked closely with us in order to realize this objective.  We should also like to thank our sponsors, the coordinators and facilitators, and those who have worked tirelessly in the planning and organization of this Institute.  

We personally welcome each and every one of you to The Halki Ecological Institute and rejoice in this unique opportunity to explore the depths of the scientific and theological richness available to us.  As you embark on this journey of discovery and revelation, we pray that the grace of the Creator and Sustainer of "all things, seen and unseen" will continually guide you as you seek to enhance the beauty and wonder of His creation.

Bestowing upon you our paternal and patriarchal blessings, we invoke upon you, and the work of this Institute, the abundant grace of the Holy Spirit and the rich mercies of God.

At the Phanar, June 5, 1999

Your fervent supplicant before God,

+ Bartholomew
Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome
and Ecumenical Patriarch


19.5.07

Greeeting of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW during the opening of the inaugural session of the Halki Ecological Institute (13 June 1999)


It is with sincere joy and profound paternal satisfaction that we address you, the esteemed facilitators, participants and staff of this unique initiative bearing the name, The Halki Ecological Institute.  It is our fervent prayer and hope that this venture will indeed prove to be the seed of a fruitful cooperative effort for the preservation and improvement of the environment of the Black Sea.

This beautiful sea, around which so many renowned ancient civilizations flourished, constituted a very useful channel of communication between peoples and cultures throughout the centuries.  Even more so, it is also a biotope, a living habitat, which for thousands of years existed under balanced conditions that allowed for the preservation of life both under the waters and on the region’s surrounding shores;  a life which was nourished by its natural recycling and which nourished its inhabitants as well.

The linkage of the Black Sea with the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus also allowed the Mediterranean peoples to travel by sea to the North and, conversely, for those in the North to sail south.  Even though there have been many military conflicts in this region, today we see that this mode of communication contributed to the cultural development of neighbouring peoples. 

By means of the mighty flowing rivers, in particular the Danube, the Black Sea allowed communication among the peoples living inland, thus constituting a centre of communication, the significance of which continues even until today.

The fact that many rivers of Europe, Asia and Asia Minor flow into the Black Sea make it the recipient of the refuse settlement that these rivers deposit from sources that surround them and even those that are remote.

Unfortunately, the description by Herodotus about the primeval belief in the sacredness of rivers that existed among certain peoples living by them – a belief imposed upon them for reasons of religious conviction, that they must not pollute the rivers – is not a generally accepted credo of humankind.  To this we must also add rational behaviour, which refuses to respect the deeper and truer justification of such a principle and belief.  The denial of that which is not rational, which in turn leads one to “reason” as the only criterion of truth, and having denied the pedagogical power of the myth with its higher rationality found hidden in its message, has led modern man to a short-sighted, selfish, and pettily opportunistic state.  We experience the consequence of this state as a foretaste of our biological death, which unexpectedly comes upon us and for which we prepare ourselves by our own so-called rational energies, which are, in fact, foolish and irrational.  

The overproduction and over-consumption of toxic substances in both industry and agriculture – not to mention war – direct those substances that are non-degradable in an inert and harmless body of rainwater intended to cleanse the surface of the earth and for irrigation, into the recipients of the flowing waters of the rivers, that is, into the oceans.

The Black Sea in this case, being relatively small in size, is the recipient of a disproportionate quantity of pollutants.  As a result, it is constantly and intensely being overburdened even more so than are the great Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.  Indeed, this apparently is due to the industrialization, the over-consumption, and the overall changes and condition of life in modern society.

Even if these reasons, indeed, contribute to the pollution of the Black Sea, we insist on characterizing them as “apparent causes”, because we consider the “true cause” to be the destruction of that which is religious piety within the human heart over and against the evil that can be carried by the rivers.

This piety which the ancient peoples had, referred to by Herodotus, elevated them to a level of spiritual civilization higher than our own inasmuch as we do not have the delicateness of feelings and the sensitivities of our responsibility in facing our fellow human beings which these ancestors possessed.  Thus, this entrenches us behind the egotistical pretension that our higher logic does not allow us to accept the sacredness of a natural thing such as a river.  In this, we prove ourselves to be foolish and incapable of thinking on a plane higher than our small-minded reason in order to understand that the sacredness of rivers and of all creation exists and is a given, just as is the sacredness of the human person which nature, itself, is ordained to serve.

All that was created “good” by the All-Good Creator participates in the sacredness of its Creator.  Conversely, disrespect toward it is disrespect toward the Creator inasmuch as the arrogant destruction of a work of art is an insult to the artist who created it.

Consequently, if we desire to improve the situation, we must restore in the hearts of the members of our society the sensitivity that was held in the hearts of our ancestors, whom Herodotus mentions.  In other words, we must restore respect to the truly existing sanctity of life, which is in peril because of our short-sighted and egotistical polluting actions.

The riparian people are so numerous and so greatly dispersed, even among many nations, that there is no possibility of fully monitoring them.  The successful method of avoiding river pollution, a method discovered by the early ancestors of Herodotus, not as a useful lie but as a most profound truth, is denied and rejected by some of us modern demythologizers and intellectualists as confusing the supernatural with the uni-dimensional nature of the world, according to our deluded perception.  The result is that we have allowed human individualism to act in a very short-sighted way, in as much as the transferral of pollution far away from us satisfies us, and we feel secure.  Yet, we do not consider the fact that we are thus setting into motion a vicious circle of a mutual transferral of pollution and a vain struggle of repression and healing, where in fact only prevention can save the situation.

Such prevention can only be achieved if all members of society regard it as their moral and above all their religious obligation not to cast their wastes upon other fellow human beings.  This is understood and socially accepted as an obligation of life.  Yet it must be expanded also to our broader economic and bio-mechanic moral conduct.

We are therefore obliged to recall the concept and the ontological acceptance of the sacred in our daily life, and especially wherever we would not otherwise recognize its place, namely in our commercial and professional activity.  This is also the reason why the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has a purely religious mission, is mobilizing and sometimes initiating efforts for the protection of the environment, which at first glance seem to refer only to the material world.

However, this superficial evaluation is not true, because on the one hand the protection of the environment is not for us a mere worship of nature;  it is not the adoration of creation, but the veneration of the Creator.  On the other hand it is an invitation for all of us to accept the sacred and the holy in our life.

In this sense, all of our theologians and clergy, who have recently admired the beauty and diversity of our natural environment, must become conscious of the fact and convey the message that the life of our faithful should not be exhausted in individual morality, but should be extended out of love to the avoidance of those long-term consequences, which may harm our fellow human beings who live hundreds of miles from us.

Our Lord has taught us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, or, at least that of those whom Herodotus referred to as the ancient Persians, who neither spat nor washed their hands in the river, and who also encouraged others to do likewise, out of great respect for the rivers (Cleio, par. 138).

We are certain that the “Halki Ecological Institute” will offer you the opportunity and the motivation to study more deeply not only the technical and humanitarian parameters of the problem of the pollution of the Black Sea and every other natural environment, but also its Christian and theological perspective.

This will enable you to become interested and more deeply conscious of your mission to work with love and piety, and to cooperate with each person dealing with the subject of the environment, for its protection from actions that create pollution and destroy the environment.  This sensitisation of ourselves and of those around us, especially those who direct the great pollutants, together with the voluntary avoidance of ecologically destructive lifestyles by members of our society, and their influence over those who do not accordingly conform, constitutes the most fruitful way of environmental correction and of revival for the Black Sea and every burdened ecosystem.

We repeat once again from this position our invitation to all of you – to the Orthodox and other Churches, and to the religious leaders of the faiths in the neighbouring region, as well as in the depths of Europe, Asia, and Asia Minor, from where rivers transfer pollution and especially toxic wastes into the Black Sea – to convey to all peoples the need to raise their awareness about such pollution, to the level at least of those people who some 2,500 years ago would not even wash their hands in the rivers.

We thank all those who are mobilized together with us for the reintroduction of the sense of sacredness as the guideline for our life, as well as all those who from whatever position carry in the struggle for the preservation of life in the Black Sea, thereby contributing to and assisting our neighbouring peoples.

We congratulate all of you who responded to our invitation through your participation and contribution to the success of the deliberations of this Institute.  Its success is due to you all, and to the commendable and generous sponsorship of the most honourable benefactor and Archon of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, Mr. Theodoros Papalexopoulos, whom we thank personally for his tireless contribution and work.  We are certain that this opportunity is the beginning of significant way and inspiration, which you will be led by the Creator to continue in your countries so that you may protect the beautiful environment that was created by Him, and challenge other people as well to accept this obligation as a divine command, given for the sake of humanity.

Amen.

17.5.07

GREETING OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW UPON THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE FIFTH SUMMER ECOLOGICAL SEMINAR ON HALKI (Halki, June 14, 1998)


It has been already four years since the Holy and Great Mother Church of Christ took up the initiative to hold a series of summer ecological seminars in this ancient and holy Monastery.  The fifth of these seminars commences today.  Although five successive seminars are not sufficient to characterize their realization as an established institution, we are able to say that the timeliness and the acuteness of the ecological problem whose solution cannot be immediately predicted demand an increase and not a reduction of our efforts.  Thus, what is needed is to expand and not curtail the offerings of these seminars, which, God willing, would consequently result in their consolidation.

As is known, the topic of the first ecological seminar that took place here in 1994, was entitled "The Environment and Religious Education".  The following year, 1995, the seminar concerned itself with the topic "The Environment and Ethics."  The presentations and reports of both these seminars have been published in English and are available to all who desire to acquire them.  The third successive seminar had as its topic "The Environment and Communication," while the fourth concerned itself with the topic "The Environment and Justice."  The topic of this present fifth seminar is "The Environment and Poverty."

As is apparent from the above list of topics, the center of our concern focuses on man, who indeed lives within a specific terrestrial environment.  For the environment receives its worth from -- and receives its name in relation to -- a distinct focal point which it surrounds.  This focal point is, in essence, man, or otherwise the human biotope, not unto itself, but as a human ecosystem, since man, of course, does not live nor is he able to live by himself in nature.  He lives simultaneously and collaterally in this system, together with the multitudes of living plant and animal organisms, each of which thrives or, even better, survives in specific environmental circumstances.  Man is dependent on a natural ecosystem in which the needs of all the living organisms that coexist are well balanced and served by each other.  The disturbance of this balance within the ecosystem renders the survival of certain types of life difficult, while their possible extinction causes further disproportionate or asymmetrical growth and development of others.  The end result is the inability to meet their needs and, consequently, their death,  which can often be seen as the desolation and the laying to waste of the eco-system or as a significant change of habitat for other, usually more inferior, systems.

In ancient Greek thought, immeasurable growth and excessive development is sometimes characterized as Hubris -- coinciding with elements of haughtiness and disrespect -- while the consequence of this is brought on by Nemesis.  In Christian terminology we speak of sin whose basic trunk, root, source and point of departure is man's pride, and whose wages are called, in one word, "death" (Romans 6:23).

The topic of this year's seminar presents us with an inquiry about the meaning of the term "poverty."  The fact that the term "poverty" is in contradistinction to the term "wealth," immediately guides our thoughts in the direction of ethics -- its deontological character -- the study of man's moral and ethical duty and obligation.  For in the purely biological sphere where the selection of the good ethic and the bad ethic occurs slowly, we speak of sufficiency and insufficiency which is an objective condition, independent of the willingness of the subject and, therefore, a neutral ethic.

For example, we say whether in certain ecosystems nourishing or growing substances are either sufficient or insufficient, but we do not assign responsibilities to the living beings existent in them which effect the sufficiency or insufficiency of the nourishing substances or any other living substance in general.

However, in any human society it is stated that some of it members grow in wealth or otherwise live over and beyond sufficiency --  that is to say, they possess more than they need.  At the same time, others in society have less than the basic necessities that they need to live, and we immediately question ourselves as to the reason for this unbalanced distribution of wealth.  We begin thinking that perhaps the totality of available goods is sufficient for the totality of the needs and, consequently, the observable superabundance and surplus for some and lack of the same for others is because of the blameworthy ethical desires  of the greedy, who abuse their abilities and strengths, since they possess -- without real necessity -- the portion of those who are lacking the basic necessities of life.

Consequently, the topic of poverty has many creases and folds, and the straightening and unfolding of all these issues exceeds the boundaries of the topics of this present seminar.  Besides, all of human history unfolds as a struggle to extend human power -- both personal and collective --  over the material goods of the earth, in a manner which would provoke the perplexity of the true philosopher -- just as it did the primitive man living sufficiently in his natural environment -- as to why this mad frenzy exists in man for the exclusive control of goods that should be sufficiently available and shared by all.

For the duration of this present seminar we will confine ourselves to the investigation of the connection between the environment and poverty.  The possible points of view from which someone may study this specific topic are, based on what we have said above, perhaps two:  these would be the objective and the deontological.  We characterize as objective that which we see in researching the sufficiency or the insufficiency of those goods which are naturally produced, and which by human activity are grown in order to satisfy human requirements.  If we set aside for now the views of the economists in regard to the boundlessness of human needs -- for the reason that these views do not speak about the natural, but about the psychological or spiritual needs of man; and if we assume that, as the Church, we cannot sanction the boundless material needs and desires of the diseased human soul that are caused by greed, but can sanction only those which are true needs by nature (with a certain inherent alteration toward the common good) and if we compare the available means with those that are realistically existent -- those both naturally and ethically justifiable -- we will be able to confirm with much astonishment that the earth is capable of nourishing and generally satisfying all of these needs for the totality of its population.  The pessimistic theories of those who support opposing views have not been proven as being true.  On the contrary, it has been proven that through technological and scientific progress in general, overabundant cycles of surplus crops have been achieved to the point that problems do not center on the lack of material earthly goods, but rather to their overabundant yield.  Certainly, a balanced growth has not yet been achieved to a sufficient level causing certain regions to suffer because of overabundance and others because of deficiency and lack of goods.  But this result is not due to the lack of human possibilities, but rather to the lack of human will and desire to do what ought to be done;  to the lack of human ethic and human organization and cooperation.  In reality, this is an ethical or a deontological problem, and not a natural one.

Perhaps there will be certain objections from among the pessimists, but we are of the opinion that these do not stand.  Especially in regard to the industrial and manufacture of goods, it is most apparent that the possibilities are great, and can definitely satisfy all human material needs and wants.  In regard to natural goods and products, the information at hand speaks about a surplus of goods in technologically advanced countries, a fact which indicates that through the use of modern methods and technology sufficiency and surplus of goods which are available and manifest in all these countries can be readily increased and expanded to meet the needs of all peoples of the earth -- if there exists the human will to do so.  Consequently, this objective analysis leads us to the conclusion that this problem is the result of selfish and bad (anti-deontological) human behaviour, and not because of the lack of natural means.

We now come to the second point of view, the deontological or ethical view of this topic. The relevant positions and teachings of the Orthodox Church on these matters are, we believe, well known.  The spiritual leadership of the Church, as well as every member who belongs to the Church, must sense that the needs of the least of the brothers and sisters of the Lord are their own needs, and they should work towards the satisfaction and fulfilling of these needs.  The commandments of our Lord and the Holy Apostles in regard to this issue are numerous:  The beatitude "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7);  the beautiful parable of the last judgement, in which the primary criterion of judgement will be the loving behaviour, or the lack thereof, of man towards his fellow human being (Matthew 25:31);  the words of the Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord, who wrote that "pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27); and likewise "if a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food ... and you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (James 2: 15-16), and many others, are certain examples of the positive Christian obligation to relieve the needs of one's fellow human being.  Inversely, the explicit condemnation of greed as covetousness (Colossians 3:5);  the proclamation of the Lord in regards to the difficulty of the rich in entering the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:23);  the marking of the desire of acquiring material goods and pleasures as the reason for wars (James 4: 1-2), are a few examples of the ethical unworthiness of the possessive ideology of the world mind-set.

This is how the Christian mind-set finds itself close to the natural order of things which, through the mouth of the Lord, is offered to man as the example of life:  "Therefore do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?'  "For after all these things the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:31-32).  "Look at the birds of the air ... Consider the lilies of the field" (Matthew 6:26-28) and believe that God, who feeds them and clothes them will give also to us the necessary things for our livelihood.  This exhortation -- an exhortation to trust in Divine Providence -- that is to say, faith in the love and the concern of God for us, does not revoke our obligation to work and produce that which is necessary.  Rather it also condemns the lack of faith and avarice, as well as the excessive and measureless occupation with this topic.  Of course, the Neptic Fathers -- without abominating material goods, but only through the grace of ascetic struggle forsaking the multitude of these and preaching by the mouth of Abba Isaac the Syrian -- say that "it is clearly known that God and His Angels rejoice in caring for what is necessary, while the devil and his co-workers rejoice in resting (Sermon 27)."

This is how a Christian is guided to a balanced use of the material goods of creation in temperance and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6,8), and journeys the royal middle road, praying with the author of Proverbs:  "give me neither poverty nor riches" (Proverbs 30:8).

Of course, humanity today "wishing to become rich," falls "into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This excessive acquisitiveness of today's world is greatly responsible for a large part of the ecological destruction of our planet and in the final analysis proves to be at the expense of all humanity, including those who desire to enrich themselves.  This is how, after a first phase of over-exploitation and luxurious living, the phase of deficiency and poverty necessarily follow, because in one period those goods that were to be used by the many were greedily used up by the few.  This means that poverty is not the result of an objective insufficiency of resources, but a predatory exploitation, followed by the wasting and bad use of certain resources:  that is, an ecological destruction on one hand and an irresponsible and unequal division of goods on the other.  The responsibility for both of these is borne by mankind, and we are obliged to help man understand this in order for him to actively work towards the notion of the logical and reasonable use of resources, the non-disturbance of the ecological balance, and the preservation of the ability of our planet to yield and produce life, so that poverty may be abolished or at least diminished.

This is the goal and the objective of this year's ecological seminar, whose commencement we proclaim today, having with us His Beatitude, our greatly loved and distinguished Brother, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and all Greece.  We welcome all the participants to this seminar, and we pray wholeheartedly for the success of your work and deliberations.  Amen.

16.5.07

WELCOME OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW AT THE OPENING OF THE IV ENVIRONMENTAL SEMINAR ON HALKI "THE ENVIRONMENT AND JUSTICE" (25 June 1997)


It is a well established fact that care for the environment of our human family regarding ecological matters constitutes a most urgent question for each and every human person.  With every passing day the danger threatening the survival of life on this beautiful planet of our universe proves to be yet more clear and ever present.  Today, a host of international organizations, governments and leading non-governmental bodies are sending the same message, in no uncertain terms, that they are bearing down on the very visible danger posed by the real disturbance in the ecological balance, and each has set forth proposals for the prevention of the certain destruction of our planet of which we have been forewarned.

For this reason, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Mother Church, has taken this initiative and joined its own voice to those of many others and has taken diligent and incisive action for the protection of the environment, inasmuch as our material world is first and foremost a spiritual organism.  The Church is compelled first by Her love in Christ for our endangered fellow man, and also by Her responsibility to not only teach the faith, but to practice it (cf. James 2:14-1 7). So it is that as in many other matters of faith, the Church risks being condemned as indifferent unless She speaks out appropriately with the "word of truth." Failure to do so would result in opening the field to other voices, and it could sometimes result in the consequence that we, the believers in Christ, might not even recognize what our own faith teaches about these issues.

Therefore, our actions are out of love and a sense of responsibility so that we may speak the truth and be of service to our fellow human beings.  Our contribution to these efforts is the annual organizing of these environmental seminars here in the sacred monastery of the All Holy Trinity at Halki. The theme of this year's seminar is "The Environment and Justice."

At first glance, these concepts might appear unrelated, but they are most certainly worth a closer look.  In Holy Scripture, justice does not have only or principally the current meaning of the dispensing of justice, that is, of justice being served.  Justice carries a more extensive and comprehensive sense of virtue, such as was expressed in the well-known aphorism of Aristotle: "Every virtue is contained in justice."  The just man does more than merely comply with the law; he bears in himself a higher conception of justice, that is, of the perfect relationship of all things to one another.  Thus, he is virtuous in every respect.  For example, Holy Scripture describes as "just" whosoever shows mercy all the day long and freely gives of himself, without any obligation of law. Likewise, Scripture portrays St. Joseph the Betrothed as just, that is, virtuous in all things, precisely because at the moment he thought the All Holy Virgin was guilty of an illicit union (the result of discovering her pregnancy) he did not wish to make an example of her and subject her to the punishment prescribed by the law, death by stoning.

If justice is identified with this correct understanding, it becomes immediately apparent that the contemporary acute ecological problem has its root precisely in the lack of justice, in the lack of that comprehensive virtue of possessing all virtues.

Man freely departed from this virtue when, at the prompting of the serpent, he declared his autonomy from God and thereby overturned the relationship of love and trust towards God.  As a result, we came to sense our own vulnerability; we began to know remorse, to hear the approaching footsteps of death, and since that time we have been filled with fear and anxiety (cf. Genesis 2:9-11).  Recall how when Adam was called by God to give an account for his disobedience.  Instead of humbling himself and seeking forgiveness, he put the blame on God Himself, claiming that the cause was Eve, the helper whom God had given him.  Thus, Adam lost the opportunity for repentance and the restoration of love that would have absolved him from the fear of living the remaining years of his life in the inherited fear which has endured in every generation since.

From that time, man has been engaged in the Titanic, if not Sisyphean, attempt to reclaim the power of his kingship over creation through his own efforts, which he forfeited by his disobedience.  He arrogantly struggles through his own means to establish himself as God, to acquire for himself the very powers of divinity.  Quite obviously, we have not succeeded in obtaining our desire.  Surely there are many and varied passions of humankind which impel us to differing actions, but underneath them all one discovers our basic fear and uncertainty about the future.  Consequently, we struggle to find substitutes for real hope and reassurance by which we can achieve security.  Unfortunately, these efforts fail to establish us on the only true and firm foundation which is Christ Himself, for only trust and love for Him can cast out fear.  Thus, we see man striving to shore himself up by accumulating wealth, and by manufacturing weapons to seek revenge and often to destroy his fellow man as an enemy, real or imagined.  We contradict ourselves by exterminating certain creatures as being bothersome while affirming that these same beings protect us from even more dangerous ones.  Man has sought to take from the natural world not only that which is necessary for his stability and survival, but often seeks to satisfy his perceived and ultimately false psychological needs, such as his need for self-display, luxuries and the like. Twenty percent of humanity consumes eighty percent of the world's wealth and is accountable for an equal percentage of the world's ecological catastrophes.  One cannot characterize this situation as "just" and what is more, this injustice has had a direct impact on the ecology of the environment.  However, it is plain that this numerical minority of financially powerful people is not the only cause for the ecological ruin of our planet.  Every person ruled by instinctual fears attempts to exploit and loot nature.  Consider the willful scorching of the earth, over-fishing, wasteful hunting, excessive and dangerous recycling of resources, and other similar "injustices" against the ways of nature share in the responsibility for this ecological spiraling down.

During the course of this seminar, you will have the opportunity to study these issues in detail. Our Modesty desires to convey to all of you participating here our heartfelt welcome, together with our paternal prayer that you might worthily actualize the possibilities available to you during the course of this seminar.  We encourage you to exhaust the present theme which we have raised here in a few points, just to prick your minds, by engaging your work from every perspective and gleaning ideas and hypotheses which are useful for all of humanity.  For it is just indeed for each of us to shoulder the burden of his or her own responsibility and not to remain silent, thinking that others will take charge and be liable, and that we can remain an isolated, insignificant factor.  Only if there is "just" comprehension by each of us of our responsibility to work together -- all of us -- in a universal effort, will we be able to hope for a better world.  

This is what we are striving at, and for what we pray; and we invite each of you to join us in this effort.


15.5.07

"THE ENVIRONMENT AND JUSTICE" Statement (Heybeliada, Istanbul, Turkey - June 29, 1997)


"A Heart Merciful to all Creation", St. Isaac the Syrian

Environmental degradation is an injustice that should wrench the heart of every person.  The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, anguished by the wounds to God's creation, called together theologians, scientists, legal professionals, environmentalists and economists from the international community, the Orthodox Churches, many Christian Churches and the local Religious Communities
of Istanbul to address the issue of environmental justice.  Drawing on our faith and values we affirmed

God is love and has created us in his image to love like God.  Therefore, our relationship with creation should be based on respect and justice.

Environmental justice demands seeking the common good.  It does not allow for poverty or social exclusion in this or future generations.  We cannot leave the "unproductive" unprotected.  In this new vision, environmental justice should reflect God's care for all creation.

Nature is not an object to be dominated, abused, or exploited at will; humanity is integrally connected with it.  One cannot exist without the other.  The destruction of the environment signals the destruction of humanity itself.

We call on all people to commit themselves to accept responsibility for environmental justice and to make their lives consistent with their moral and spiritual values.

We also call on the Churches to collaborate on the urgent issue of environmental justice.  We urge them to work together in raising awareness with other organizations and institutions.  Wechallenge each Church and religious community to educate its own members through preaching, teaching and example.  They should encourage men and women of faith actively to participate in the work of environmental justice whatever their walk of life.

We call for new and courageous action to enact, implement and enforce laws, rules, and international agreements to bring about environmental justice.

14.5.07

GREETING OF HIS ALL HOLINESS, THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW TO THE THIRD ECOLOGICAL SEMINAR ON HEYBELIADA (HALKI, July 1, 1996)


Meeting once more in this sacred place, the Holy Monastery dedicated in honour of the Name of the Holy Trinity, where the renowned Theological School of Halki educated generations of clergymen and theologians, we have gathered once again for an ecological encounter.  We are not in the least under the impression that we have sufficiently cultivated the ground, so to speak, whereby Churches, religious communities, environmental organizations and scientists communicate with each other to the four corners of the earth regarding the vital issues of the protection of the environment.

On the contrary, we steadfastly believe that the global ecological problem, as we discover more and more its truly unbelievable dimensions, requires a long-term programme of complex and concerted studies, so that, in the combination and creative synthesis of their conclusions, we may be able to effectively face the global threats already evident, caused by the irresponsible, if not criminal, behaviour of rational man towards the non-rational and soulless creation--creation, in which God placed man from the beginning "in a paradise of delight," as sovereign on the one hand, but on the other as a healer and steward.  The destructive management of the creation by man, therefore, besides its practical impact on his own quality of life, attains a critical moral dimension, and constitutes a heavy disrespect towards the Creator.

Moreover, the subject of environment in general, which we pose here today, along with the often discussed issue of communication, is certain to open up very important perspectives for the partial tasks of this present seminar, for which reason we rejoice most warmly in the name of  the Mother Church, and personally.

It is clear, as we have stated elsewhere in similar inaugural addresses, that through these opening words of greeting for the beginning of the deliberations, in no way do we propose to prejudice or even to influence substantially the work planned, since indeed our Modesty does not speak here as one of the experts on the subject.

Rather, it is certainly our desire to express a few most general prefatory statements regarding the authoritative positions of the Church on the whole subject of environment, and especially in relation to the development (which for us here has eminently vital significance) of increased communication, for the benefit of the whole of mankind and, ultimately, for the glory of God.

In short, it is sufficient to state that, just as it is important for the various systems of the human body (such as the nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems) to communicate with each other to maintain good health,  so the free operation of communication has the same value.  Hence, the entire physical network of varying biotopes and specific geographical ecosystems will be better served through the mutual exchange of information not only among all those responsible but also by the co-ordination of their activities.

And so that we may express this same truth in its most spiritual form, and indeed in a manner most pleasing to God, we would say that just as communion with God in prayer, and just as the solidarity and interaction with one's fellow men in every real situation render truly blessed the distribution of all the good things of this present world, in a similar way, unhindered communication among all those concerned for the management of the ecological realities of the present time is equivalent to the indispensability and the sanctity of prayer.  Hence, all things created may be connected in the end eucharistically for the praise of the One Creator and Father God.

We wish, therefore, with all our soul, in the true spirit of prayer and service for the whole of humanity along with the whole of creation, that the blessed efforts and tasks of Summer Seminar on Halki '96 may come to fruition. We profoundly thank first our honorable governmental authorities for the facilitation which they have provided. Then, we cannot be remiss in thanking His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh who, once more, was well pleased to allow us to place this seminar under our joint aegis.  Moreover, we thank all the others who sent messages for the beginning of our seminar, first of all His Excellency, Bill Clinton, President of the United States, who donated on behalf of the American Nation the young tree which we shall plant in a short while as a token of his esteem for the ecological endeavors of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The expressions of support by these esteemed people demonstrate their strong interest in global environmental problems, and indicate mankind's increasing awareness of looming environmental threats. In this, communication has played a vital role.

They also encourage the Ecumenical Patriarchate to continue in its undiminished and persistent initiatives in mobilising the moral and spiritual forces of the Orthodox Church to realise once more the harmony that existed between man and nature, to the glory of the Creator.  This is because the Ecumenical Patriarchate continues to observe the rapid deterioration of environmental conditions globally,  which frequently results in irreversible changes. However, the Ecumenical Patriarchate sees two hopeful phenomena: On the one hand, the adoption by the international community of the principles of sustainability in the management of natural resources and a wiser conception of the development process; on the other, the growing mobilisation of people, and especially of the younger generation, in combatting threats and managing the planet in a more sensible way.

In this spirit, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is organizing for the autumn of next year, a second symposium on board a ship, with the theme: "Religion, Science and Environment - An encounter of beliefs:  A single objective."  This symposium will focus on the environmental problems of the Black Sea, and their solution. The seminar will start on 31 August 1997 from Thessaloniki, the Cultural Capital of Europe for that year, and will sail to Istanbul, continuing to Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and returning to Turkey.

Finally, congratulating the Organizing Committee of the Summer Seminar on Halki '96 and thanking all those who, in whatever way, took part in its realization, along with the participants and speakers who have been kind enough and concerned enough to come together, we entreat upon all the rich illumination of the Divine Creator, and bestow upon each individually our fatherly and Patriarchal blessing.



13.5.07

ADDRESS OF HIS ALL HOLINESS THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF SUMMER SEMINAR ON HALKI '95 HELD AT THE HOLY TRINITY MONASTERY (June 12, 1995)


Our Holy Mother and Great Church of Christ expresses justified gratitude in God that within the context of our ministries in the world we have hastened to be among the first to include a complete series of seminars on ecology. Our efforts, of course, are not to be perceived as simply responding to the needs of the modern world. Our concerns are rooted in the deeper conviction that by these initiatives the Church ministers absolutely and responsibly within its primary mission entrusted to Her by God in history:  the evangelization and salvation in Christ of man and the world.

In these distressing times in which contemporary humanity finds itself, for one to reflect simply on ecological concerns is of course a noteworthy and honorable initiative. By our deep-rooted conviction, however, we humbly believe that one is in danger of being misunderstood, caught up in the tide of our times as an ineffective collaborator of all those who seek and pursue to impress rather than properly edify and fundamentally contribute to the solutions of relevant problems.

As we discuss the problem  of our ecology, who can truly deny that in spite of the honorable efforts made by various sectors for a proper response to the demanding needs of this issue we continue to compete with each other, speaking in platitudes rather than thinking and responding in a proper manner?

In response to this immense danger which, as usual, in a quiet and perhaps subconscious way threatens to negate much of the theoretical effort on this subject, within the environs of this renowned Holy Monastery, this blessed seminar has as its purpose the general topic of "Environment and Ethics."

Hence, out of paternal responsibility we take this opportunity to address these introductory remarks not simply as a proper greeting of the Mother Church bestowing our wholehearted patriarchal blessing to the blessed seminar participants gathered here; rather in a spirit of purely pastoral concern we further convey a few thoughts on the topic. Our expectation is that perhaps these thoughts can serve as a source of reference by placing our finger on "the print of the nails" for a more God-fearing appraisal of the responsibilities and duties of all men and women created in the image and likeness of God towards all that is within and around the created universe.

Permit us thus initially to state that the awesome bequest that we vigorously often claim in nature, that we are created in the image and likeness of God, demands by definition the analogous ethos. An ethos imposed upon us towards ourselves and each other, as well as the microcosm and macrocosm around us. Only thus can we properly satisfy God who created "out of nothing" everything that is "very good."

In other words humankind, as the visible and living image of God in the world, is not permitted to display behaviour ungodly or unpleasing to God.  For in this instance, as "partakers of the image but not guardians of it," we become initiators and protagonists of evil, which God, providentially as a fair judge, terminates at our natural death "in order that evil may not be immortal."

However, the ethos which springs forth from God and the unapproachable and unknown essence of God is borne witness to and described as grace everywhere and always throughout the Holy Bible and in all that God has revealed to us in general, as well as through the teachings of the God-bearing Fathers of the Church.

Speaking in the presence of Christian intellectuals, it would be useless and absolutely unnecessary to explain that the deeper character of the grace of the All-beneficent God is that everything is unconditionally free, everything is unequivocally non-reciprocal. We are reminded, however, that in the Biblical account concerning Creation, the grace of God is manifested initially as confidence, good-will, compassion, philanthropy and the like; thereafter, following the fall and apostasy of humankind, as mercy, forbearance, expiation, restoration, reinstatement and adoption.

Nevertheless we must unequivocally state that in both instances the divine will of God was always manifested in the form of law and order.  No one has the right to disobey without punishment, for the entire design of the Most-merciful Creator constitutes a whole and undivided divine "providence." Thus, whether we speak of natural, moral or spiritual principles, we acknowledge and emphasize the same infinite grace of God, confident that the essence of ecology as a whole is always Divine Economy.

These graces are preeminently characteristic of the All-wise and Almighty God.  They can certainly constitute a ceaseless guiding policy of our own ethos in the world. For if God, according to Plato, "perpetually creates," humankind must always acknowledge all the principles of creation and obey them.

Within the framework of this pious awareness concerning the world, we should bear in mind also the rudimentary order within the entire order of creation in which God in the six days of creation classified from the simplest to the more perfect. Recognizing and acknowledging such an inverse development, perhaps then we will respect anew the unquestionable and mystical sanctity that it possesses not only by itself as a work of God "created out of nothing," but for the "being" and the "well-being" of humankind, for whom the entire material world has been created and which today, for the sake of brevity, we not so eloquently characterize as "natural environment."

As was properly suggested in a relevant study a long time ago by a hierarch of our Ecumenical Throne, we wish to state, in closing, that the famous scholastic axiom of the Western Church gratia praesupponit naturam upon which in reality the whole of the West built its theories concerning Natural Law and most of its socio-political concerns - both past and present - will always suffer and not be done justice to under the one-sidedness of the fallen creation in general, if it is not supplemented by the corrected text natura praesupponit gratiam. For indeed only "in the liturgical conscience of Orthodoxy" is the visible creation of God reverently glorified and redeemed.

With paternal warmth and love and in the spirit of the thoughts we have mentioned above, we offer greetings to the participants present here; we express gratitude and congratulations to the Organizing Committee of this seminar, and abundantly bestow upon all guidance from on high for complete illumination and for the total success of the work of this session. Amen.

12.5.07

GREETINGS BY HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW AT THE OPENING OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL SEMINAR ON HALKI "THE ENVIRONMENT AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATION" (June 20, 1994)


By the grace of God, we convene this inter-religious gathering in this venerable center of Orthodoxy.  We are pleased in fact that it is convened in the hospitable environment of this monastery, where our alma mater, the Theological School, existed and will celebrate in a few days the 150th anniversary since its inception.

By the will of God this Conference is the first in a series of seminars which we intend to convene on a yearly basis, here on this amiable and charming island of Halki.  This conference is convened by decision of our Holy and Sacred Synod, which by separate decision reached in its meeting of June 6, 1989, has decreed that September 1st of each year not only be designated the beginning of the ecclesiastical New Year, but furthermore dedicated to the protection of our natural environment.

In view of the universal problem of the poor management of the environment created by the numerous and unfortunate abuses of nature by humanity, by this significant decision reached under the spiritual guidance of our predecessor, Patriarch Dimitrios of blessed memory, it is recognized that our Church must actively involve itself in this crucial issue.  Humanity was created by God to have sovereignty over nature, not to be a tyrant over it.  Many sectors of society have recognized that the ecological problem is associated with the moral crisis of the human person and that the use of nature depends on the perception, position, and training of human beings regarding the cosmos, for according to the ancient saying, "the measure of all things is mankind."

Now that we have been awakened to the impending destruction of nature and all that this implies, how has society responded in recent years?  We note here the so-called "plans for peaceful coexistence" (between mankind and nature) along with plans for the "development of the environment."  All these concerns are of course blessed and acceptable.  As we know, however, they are limited in their effectiveness.  Who will find and apprehend those individuals responsible for forest fires?  Who will restrain those who illegally cut down trees?  Who and how will we control those unconscionable individuals who pollute our waters, rivers, and seas?  Who will restrain the greedy?

We, the Church, must help firmly, extensively, and with relative ease with this pressing and necessary concern.  We will help by enlightening the conscience of men and women and by cultivating respect for fellow persons and for all matter.  Our goal is to give people feeling and instil in them the fear of God so that they may avoid doing wrong, vulgarity, impropriety, inhumanity, and especially egotism.  Usually those who torch forests, those who illegally cut trees, those who pollute our shores, are egocentric individuals with hardened hearts, who do so out of greed and for purely utilitarian purposes.  A good Christian cannot, rather, a good Christian is not, permitted by conscience to destroy nature and his environment.  We cannot be a source of immoral or ugly acts.

According to Socrates, "virtue is taught."  In conformity with our aforementioned position therefore, upon much meditation and thought, we have chosen as the theme of this gathering, the relationship between religious education and the environment.  By restricting the discussion of the conference to religious education, we do not exclude nor do we underestimate all forms and levels of secular and parochial education.  Our goal, and we beseech the attention of the esteemed conferees to this point, is to examine the ways and means by which we may sensitize and influence the desires and the attention of our students to this most urgent issue.

So that we are not left with empty or hollow words, we are of the opinion that our attention must be given to developing programs of practical application.  Tree-planting initiatives must be undertaken, for example.  Groups of students can cultivate gardens, while yet others can care and tend to forest regions.  Along with a series of lectures, seminars should be organized intended on enlightening students concerning planting procedures, gardening and similar activities.  Other groups of children in our secular, parochial and catechetical schools may adopt vegetable or flower gardens, forested regions, church compounds, abandoned properties or areas in use, farm regions cultivated for the common good, as well as areas with natural beauty which they will care for on a voluntary basis.  Their example can serve to sensitize their parents and elders who can then be motivated to do likewise.

We especially advise the clergy and others in parish ministry to encourage love for nature, to care for trees and shrubs and the church properties and cemeteries.  It is only fitting that love for the environment begin in the church compound which must be replete with greenery and flowers in bloom throughout all the seasons of the year, "for the Author of beauty has created them" (Wisdom of Solomon 13:3).

This beauty of nature reflects the beauty and perfection of God.  Subsequently we are obligated to preserve rather than destroy the environment.  Hence, any destruction of nature clearly constitutes sin.

We entreat your attention primarily to these final thoughts.  As we read the agonizing warnings of the naturalists, the geologists and geographers and other specialists, who remind us of the great folly of the violation of nature with its foreseeable tragic consequences, you, my beloved conferees, contribute today to a momentous task of timely significance for our planet.

"For He (God) did not create it (the earth) a chaos, He formed it to be inhabited" (Isaiah 45:18).  Humanity is obligated therefore not to destroy the earth, creating chaotic conditions with fires and a scarcity of water, but rather to develop and enhance it.  "You who have nothing to do, plant a tree in the corner of your garden so that others may come and sit there to rest and recollect."  Such are the words by Adamo, in a timely song with beautiful orchestration and harmony.  It would be worthwhile for our youthful listeners to find it.  Inspired and enthused by it, sing it with your friends as an indication of your ecological concerns.  In life, only those divinely inspired and with zeal, those who love their environment, create the things of God.  "Seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22).

You, our beloved conferees, contribute to the concern for the proper order and legitimate status of the cosmos.  Cosmos is defined as meaning to decorate; it is defined as a love for beauty and decency.  May you be blessed by God.

Permit us to confide in you our thoughts.  We do not believe much in the strong and the mighty, or in people in authority.  We believe rather in those willing and patient individuals who do not lose sight of their objective; the objective for good.  Do not forget the acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks that "drops of water make rocks hollow."

Many simple people in various small corners of the earth, with nominal but continuous daily concerns, can change the world, even slightly, for the better.  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate the triumph of the few, the weak - by human standards - holy disciples and apostles of our Lord, who, dispersed, changed the world here and 2000 years ago, and behold, now we are entering the third millenium after Christ.

My brothers and sisters.  May we continue primarily to cultivate the field of the soul, but also the garden of our home.
Welcome into our midst!

11.5.07

GREETING OF HIS ALL HOLINESS ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW DURING THE SYMPOSIUM ON ECOLOGY AT THE HOLY TRINITY MONASTERY ON HALKI (June 1, 1992)


Your Royal Highness, Most Reverend holy brothers, Beloved friends,

We, as the canonical bishop of this holy monastery, welcome all of you with great joy and we extend to each and every one of you our paternal blessing, invoking the bountiful grace of the Lord upon the work of your assembly here.

Your Royal Highness' presence among us during these days, and indeed here at this seminar, is not only a great honour for our Church, but also gives us all the precious opportunity to benefit spiritually from Your Royal Highness' internationally recognised and deeply appreciated experience and contribution through the efforts You have made in the area of the protection of the natural environment.  Indeed, Your Highness, few have contributed to this vital area asYou have.  As a church leader, it is our duty to recognise and pay tribute to this, by expressing here our own thanks and those of our Church.

The Orthodox Church has many reasons to consider the issue of the protection of the natural environment as exceptionally serious and urgent.  Our late predecessor Patriarch Dimitrios had earlier stressed the urgency of this whole issue in his Message of September 1, 1989.  Since then, the brother Primates of the holy Orthodox Churches, during their recent Synaxis or Gathering at the Phanar,  officially expressed their full agreement on the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, proclaiming to all that the whole Orthodox Church adopts the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in establishing the 1st of September of each year as a day of prayer for the protection of God's creation.  As we already have said in our  address upon welcoming You to the Patriarchate, Your Highness, it is our hope that  the other Christian Churches will wish to adopt this initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that the 1st of September of each year will be established by all  who believe in Christ as a time for prayers for the protection of the natural environment.

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