Dubbed the Green Patriarch for his passion and advocacy for the environment, Ecumenical Bartholomew said humanity is not learning its lessons from climate change and protecting the environment.
The Patriarch made the remarks on Tuesday in a message on the "Day of Protecting the Natural Environment" that marks the start of the new ecclesiastical year at the Feast of the Indiction.
Bartholomew has persistently proclaimed the primacy of spiritual values in determining environmental ethics and action. To this end, he has spoken in global organizations and addressed religious assemblies, while encouraging Orthodox Christians throughout the world to care for God’s creation.
In 2008, the Ecumenical Patriarch was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World for “defining environmentalism as a spiritual responsibility.
The spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox spoke of the "great gift of creation" and called for the constant protection of the environment as belonging to the core of the Orthodox identity. "The Church recognizes and teaches that the cause of human alienation from the 'very good' creation and one’s fellow human beings is the 'alienation from God.' It boldly reminds us that there is no authentic freedom without the Truth and outside the Truth, which is the power that truly liberates," Bartholomew said, quoting John 8.32: "Know the truth, and the truth will free you."
An environmental movement
Bartholomew spoke of the efforts of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since September 1, 1989 to promote the necessity of protecting the environment, among others by inviting prominent specialists for "nine water-borne international symposia." This he said, marked the start of "a movement that produced much fruit, raised awareness about the spiritual and ethical roots and parameters of the destruction of the natural environment, mobilized individuals and institutions, inspired the rest of the Christian world, highlighted the way of responding to this great challenge - a way that passes firstly through an understanding of its connection with the crisis of human freedom and the need for radical change in mentality and conduct with a view to creation, and secondly through a common and universal action given the global dimensions and tragic consequences of the ecological destruction."
Sustainable development is a one-way street, the spiritual leader underlined. "It will secure ecological balance in the present and constitute a guarantee for the future, but it has its conditions: ecological economy, changes in agricultural and biomechanical productivity, the production and use of energy, the movement and transportation of goods, new models of consumption, and so on."
Unfortunately, he added, humanity "has not learned from the consequences of climate change, the destructive fires, heat waves, and floods, the rapid reduction in biodiversity, the pollution of the atmosphere and seas, the deforestation and social repercussions of the environmental crisis, above all revealed in the mass migration for ecological reasons." Instead, it "continues to be deluded about the innate capacity of nature to protect itself and overcome human-induced damages."
Climate change is "an immense destruction caused by human irresponsibility and the impasse of our model of organization in the life of our economy," the Ecumenical Patriarch said. "We only have a future if we understand that the protection of the integrity of creation does not only not comprise a hurdle for economic development, but is the vehicle for real progress."
This year, he added, the celebration of the Day of the protection of creation are accompanied by the cries of the victims of military violence in Ukraine, the bombardment of cities and infrastructures, and the destruction of nature and the plight of the refugees. "Every war is a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe. The ongoing violence, beyond the thousands of human lives, also destroys the natural environment that it pollutes, forcing nations and peoples to return to ways of securing energy efficiency through means that are unfriendly to the environment."
Thus, he stressed, humanity enters a new vicious cycle of destructive impasses, which confirm the saying that homo sapiens to this day continues to behave simultaneously as homo demens, as imprudent and irrational. The elements of the physical world "are not simply utilitarian or useful material for the individual needs of human beings," Bartholomew said, citing ecclesiastical texts, but they emanate from the creator.
"Everything created by God blesses, praises and exalts God to the ages, the heavens declare His glory. This is the message expressed by the concern of the Great Church for the protection of creation," he underlined, adding that "On our way to the Eschaton, the Holy Church offers to the world the Gospel of grace as its guide and the unswerving certainty that evil, in all its forms, will not have the final word in history."