Hear the cry of the Earth

and the cry of the poor

WCC

One of the main subjects of modern reflection is the protection of the environment. The ruthless and methodic man-made vandalism of nature lead nature, as well as the entire inhibited world, to disaster. Recent incidents worldwide demonstrate man’s thoughtlessness towards nature[1]; for example the huge oil slick in Siberia, the fires in Australia, the explosion in Beirut (Lebanon) etc. Man is firmly convicted that sun will always rise the next morning[2]. But, when will he take into serious account that things are getting dangerous?

 

Conscientious people and organizations struggle to transmit a message of responsibility and conscience to the world. Nevertheless, the effort and the “joint agreement” of the two ecclesiastical fathers, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Rome Francis, are remarkable.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, embracing the effort made by the Ecumenical Movement and the World Council of Churches to address contemporary concerns and pursue a more dynamic course in “space and time”, expresses his constant care for nature and his dynamic word for ecology, which includes “everything”; namely, what we call “integral[3]. In his study named “Encountering the Mystery”, Bartholomew endorses environmental justice and he highlights that our concern for the environment should be linked to our concern for social issues, such as poverty, war, injustice, inequality, hunger. Caring for the environment is not only a political or technological matter; it is also a religious and spiritual matter[4], as he himself stresses. At this point, he talks about the connection between the concepts of Ecology-Economy. He clarifies that ecology-economy share a common reference point, which is the word “eco” (it stems from the Greek word οίκος= household)[5]. Ecology has a broader sense, it includes everything. In other words, it is the place we all reside in, while economy is the law, the management of the world as a place of residence. We are the ones to decide how we will treat the world and whether we will respect it or exploit it. Economics and ecology are directly related to the concern of Patriarch Bartholomew, a concept and vision that found its way into programs in the Ecumenical Movement and especially in the “Decade for the Overcoming of Violence (DOV)” and the “Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth (AGAPE)[6] process” and its follow-up program “Poverty, Wealth and Ecology: the consequences of economical globalization (PWE)”[7].

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which was convened in Crete (led by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew) in 2016, focused on the social dimensions and the tragic consequences caused by destruction of the environment[8] and it also expressed the view that, in order to address the ecological issue, a radical change in our lifestyle is needed.

It is encouraging to note that, nowadays, for the first time, there is a global agreement on the way social and ecological crisis are examined, since there is “awakening” of our responsibility towards protecting our “household”. Pope Francis of Rome also supported the effort made by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, aiming at the protection of the environment.

In his study Laudato Si’, Pope Francis highlights how much has Patriarch Bartholomew contributed to environmental issues and emphasizes that they mutually hope for a complete ecclesiastic community. He invokes Bartholomew’s messages referring to lifestyle changes, in order for us to move from greediness to generosity, meaning “to learn how to give and not simply renounce”. He talks about the inclusive concept of ecology, in which modern annunciation is reconnected with prayers and mysteries with the struggle for justice and environmental concern."Everything is connected. That is why environmental care is needed, at the same time with sincere love for people and a firm commitment to solving society's problems," the Argentine Pontiff said.

The Pope, who is particularly sensitive with poor people, brings Saint Francis of Assisi as an example, a saint who , despite being simple, did not forget to convey the message of justice towards the poor ones, as well as engagement within society and internal peace (LS § 10). He turned against development without justice and against competitiveness that destroys job market and generates unemployment, poverty and exclusion[9]. As the Pope says “in order to care for poor people, it is imperative that we stop thinking about ourselves and draw our attention to others”. What he means is that surpassing ourselves is the key, in order to cater for others, as well as for the natural environment. The Pope is fighting for a future based on unity and notes that “united we shall march, despite our differences. This is the path of Jesus”[10].

Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, united, shared their common concern, and disseminated a hope of a full-fledged ecclesiastical society. As the Pope characteristically says in his Circular, Patriarch Bartholomew explains that "a crime in nature is a crime against ourselves and a sin against God"[11].

Through their common message, Bartholomew and Francis revitalize Christian teaching about the environmental issue, thus allowing not only theological, but also social concern to be generated. The environment, just like human rights, global justice, equality and peace, are all seen as dialogue priorities among religions. The joint declaration of Bartholomew and Francis, mentioned above, includes not only ecological issues, refugees, etc.; today they are united again in the face of the painful situation facing humanity, the so-called covid-19 pandemic. The Patriarch Bartholomew encourages Christians that this is a test that will pass, "and the test is an opportunity to change for the better. In the direction of consolidating love and solidarity."[12] And Pope Francis remarks that it is time to "reach out to those who are suffering and most in need. Because life is measured by love."

Thank you for your attention

 


[1]«Ο δημιουργός του κόσμου δέχεται κατά τον υμνογράφο “τάς ἱκετηρίους δεήσεις, ὡς κηδεμών καί προνοητής καί Σωτήρ ημών”», SeeinPanagiotis Skaltsis, «Η αρχή της Ινδίκτου στο Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο», Synthesis ΙΙ, vol. 6, 103-116, herep. 114.

[2]Excerpt from «τονφρουρότωνημερών» ofpoetTasosLivaditis. SeeinChrysostomos Stamoulis, ΈρωςκαιΘάνατος, ed. Akritas, 2009, p. 291.

[3]InmoredetailsonthenotionofInternalEcologyinChristosTsironis, inGreekΘρησκεία, Κοινωνία στη Δεύτερη Νεωτερικότητα, Λόγοι, διάλογοι και αντίλογοι στο έργο του Ul. Beck, ed. Barboynaki, 2018, St. Tsompanidis, Εκκλησία της Εξόδου, Οικουμένη – Κοινωνία – Άνθρωπος, ed. Ostracon, Thessaloniki 2008, p. 148, Petros Vassiliadis, The Witness of the Church in Today’s World: Three Missiological Statements on Integral Ecologyhttps://www.academia.edu/28268455/ , Nikos Dimitriadis, “Integral Ecology: Mission of God, Mission with the “Other” and Mission Towards Nature in a Multi-Religious World”, Antonianum 91:4 (2016), pp. 1077-1090 andMariaSereti, «TheContributionofEumenicalPatriarchBartholomewtotheconfigurationofEcumenical “IntegralEcology”», The Ecumenical Review 70.4 (2018), World Council of Churches, p. 617.

[4]SeefrJohnChryssavgis – KonstantinosDelikostantis, The Patriarch of Solidarity, ed. Istos, Istanbul 2013, pp. 48-49.

[5]SeeGeorgeMantzaridis, Χριστιανική Ηθική I - Εισαγωγή, Γενικές Αρχές Σύγχρονη Προβληματική, ed. Pournaras, Thessaloniki 2009, p. 234.

[6]SeenamelyStylianosTsompanidis, Εκκλησία της εξόδου – Οικουμένη, Κοινωνία, Άνθρωπος, ed. Ostracon, Thessaloniki 2018, p. 148 andthesame, Οικουμενικά Πορτρέτα, Εκκλησιολογικές και Κοινωνικοηθικές προσεγγίσεις, ed. Ostracon, Thessaloniki 2018, p. 203.

[7]PetrosVassiliadisStylianosTsompanidis, «Παγκόσμια Οικονομία - Κλιματική Αλλαγή - Διαθρησκειακός Διάλογος: Η χριστιανική μαρτυρία στην εποχή της παγκοσμιοποίησης», Synthesis1 (2019) 88-110, vol. 2, p. 91.

[8]SeeallthetextsofHolyandGreatCouncilinCenterofEcumenical, MissiologicalandEnviromentalStudies “MetropolitanPanteleimonPapageorgiou”, ΟιαποφάσειςτηςΑγίαςκαιΜεγάληςΣυνόδουτηςΟρθοδόξουΕκκλησίας, ed.CEMES, Thessaloniki 2017 andinwebsite of the Holy and Great Councilhttps://www.holycouncil.org/.

[9]PopePrancis, (LaudatoSi’) inGreekΔοξασμένοςνα ‘σαιΠάνωστηνφροντίδατηςκοινήςμαςοικίας,ed. bytheGreekCatholicSynod, 2015, pp. 11 and 68. Much more for the lifework of Saint Francis of Assisi see Panagiotis Yfantis, ΑγίουΦραγκίσκουτηςΑσίζηςΆπαντα, ed. Maistros, 2010.

[10]PopeFrancis, Για μια Εκκλησία φτωχή και των φτωχών, ed. Polis, 2013, p. 38.

[11]LectureattheMonasteryofUtstein, Norway (23 June 2003).

[12]See theentireMessagebytheEcumenicalPatriarchin «Βαρθολομαίοςγιατονκορονοϊό, Ευχαριστούμεόλουςόσοιαγωνίζονταιμεαυτοθυσία», https://www.ethnos.gr/ekklisia/oikoymeniko-patriarheio/94910_bartholomaios-gia-ton-koronoio-eyharistoyme-oloys-osoi