Letter from "The Green Patriarch", Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Constantinople.
TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH,
GRACE AND PEACE FROM THE CREATOR AND PRESERVER OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE, OUR LORD AND GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,
Our merciful God Who loves mankind created the world to be beautiful and functional, sufficient to meet all human needs. He granted to man, the crown and king of creation, the enjoyment of everything in the world that is necessary for life.
God instilled in every beneficial relationship between man and creation feelings of joy and pleasure. Furthermore, He imbued man with a sense of longing when in genuine need, and a sense of satiety to protect against abuse by excess. Man, therefore, is equipped by God with an instinctual awareness of the proper measure of things, of the difference between what is necessary and beneficial and what is excessive and harmful. Endowed as well with free will, man has the ability to act on his instinctual understanding of the boundaries of these two conditions, so that he can either set new boundaries of self-deprivation for purposes of spiritual exercise, or can set them aside altogether through willful acts of self-aggrandizement.
In the latter case, we are dealing either with covetousness, which the Apostle Paul characterizes as idolatry, or with a hostile loathing of the God-given gifts of life and the things of this world. Both such attitudes are equally condemnable for they oppose God’s perfect plan that the life of man be full of joy and gladness.
Unfortunately, man refused to comply with God’s directives regarding the measured use of natural resources according to his needs, nor did he preserve and protect the world entrusted to him, and thus he estranged himself from the governing grace of God. As a result, man acts toward his surrounding environment in rapacious and destructive ways, as a ruler rather than a steward, disrupting the natural harmony and balance that are from God. Nature in turn has reacted to man’s abuse in unbalanced ways, inflicting upon humanity a series of natural catastrophes. Recent unusual temperature fluctuations, hurricanes, earthquakes, storms, the pollutions of rivers and seas and numerous other occurrences that hurt both the environment and man are the results of human actions, whether carried out openly or executed in secret. The ultimate cause of all this destructive behavior is man’s egocentrism, an expression of his self-willed alienation from God and his effort to make himself god.
Because of this egocentrism, the relationship of man and nature intended by the Creator has degenerated into one of insolent and arrogant subjugation of natural forces and their use for the killing or subjection of our fellow human beings rather than for the preservation of life and freedom, or for the satisfaction of excessive pleasures, without care of the consequences of overuse.
The use of atomic and nuclear forces of nature for war is an insult to creation and Creator, as is over-consumption of any kind, which burdens the natural environment with pollutants, which leads to climate change and global warming and an imbalance in the natural order, with all that implies. The immense consumption of energy for purposes of war and the excessive consumption of contemporary humanity far beyond its needs are two areas where the responsibilities of political leaders and common citizens are interwoven in such a way so that each of us has the power to contribute to the betterment of the general condition.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us all make every effort possible, each from where God has placed us, to rein in our reckless over consumption, so that the harmonious workings of this planet, our common home, may be restored, and that we and our children may enjoy in peace all the good things which God in His love for us has created and offers to all men and women. Amen.
September 1, 2006
+ BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople
beloved brother in Christ and
fervent intercessor before God