Bartholomew calls for action to fulfil the ecological concepts of our faith

This year marks 30 years since the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople established Indiktos, the start of ecclesiastical year, as the Day for the protection of our natural environment.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – In his annual message for 1st September, the traditional beginning of the new ecclesiastical year according to the Orthodox calendar, known as the Indiktos, the Ecumenical Patriarch noted that this year marks 30 years since the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople chose is as the Day for the protection of our natural environment.

Bartholomew notes that this initiative was not addressed to the Orthodox alone, but to all Christians and the believers of other religions, as well as political leaders, environmentalists, scholars, intellectuals and all human beings.

Pope Francis himself praised Bartholomew in his Encyclical Laudato Si’ (2016) for his initiative for the protection of Creation as it inspired all others, which is why the two Churches mark together 1st September as a festivity dedicated to the protection of Creation.

In his homily, Bartholomew pointed out that the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the importance of protecting Creation has had the effect of promoting the importance of the truth of Christian anthropology and its cosmogonic conception. At the same time, it encourages contemporary theological thought and promotes the importance of the Eucharistic vision, the utility of creation and the ascetic spirit of Orthodox Christianity.

The interest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the environment, Bartholomew notes, is not a response to the modern environmental crisis, but is instead an opportunity for the Church to express, develop, proclaim and promote the Christian vision of the importance of protecting Creation. The basis of the Church's constant concern for the natural environment is precisely its ecclesial identity and theology.

For the Patriarch, respect and protection of Creation is an aspect of our faith and life in the Church, as a Church. The very life of the Church is a "lived ecology", true respect and care for creation and the source of its environmental actions. In essence, the Church's interest in the protection of Creation is an extension of the Divine Thanksgiving (Eucharist) to all dimensions of her relationship with the world.

The ecclesial being in the Church, the ascetic ethics, the pastoral ministry of diakonia, the mutual resilience of the faithful and the desire for eternity constitute a community of people in which physical reality is not a material object useful to cover needs of humanity, but is an act of creation by God, who invites us to respect and protect him, in order for ourselves to become as well creators, rulers, custodians and priests of His creation, in a continuous act of thanksgiving.

Hence, for the Ecumenical Patriarch, the environmental crisis shows that our world is one, that our problems are universal and shared, which is why a general mobilisation is needed to face its very serious consequences.

It is inconceivable for Bartholomew that humanity is both aware of the seriousness of the problem and continues to behave as if it were unaware. Unfortunately, in recent decades globalised economic growth – characterised by a fetishisation of economic indicators for the sole purpose of maximising profits – has exacerbated environmental and social problems.

Failure to recognise the illegality of such an economy leads to uncontrolled social and economic problems. What is more, alternative forms of development and the power of social solidarity and justice are ignored and denigrated.

People must work more actively to put into practice the environmental and social concepts of the Christian faith. It is extremely important that each of us, starting in the parishes, develop environmental initiatives and practices for the protection of the environment and a variety of ecological education programmes based on the message of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

In short, for Bartholomew, a solution to the great problems of humanity is impossible without a spiritual orientation.