Daily Lectionary Readings
Historic Joint Statement by
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Pope Francis, and
Archbishop of Conterbury Justin Welby
on Climate Change
For the first time in two-thousand-year history of Christianity, the Ecumenical Patriach of Constantinople, the Pope of Rome, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have issued a joint statement. On September 1, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, His Holiness Pope Francis, and His Eminence Archbisop Justin Welby of Canterbury published this "Joint Message for the Protection of Creation," calling for urgent action to deal with the worldwide crisis of climate change and environmental degradation. Explaining with pastoral urgency the lessons of Scripture, they issue an urgent call for an effective collective response to this global threat.
A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation
For more than a year, we have all experienced the devastating effects of a global pandemic—all of us, whether poor or wealthy, weak or strong. Some were more protected or vulnerable than others, but the rapidly-spreading infection meant that we have depended on each other in our efforts to stay safe. We realised that, in facing this worldwide calamity, no one is safe until everyone is safe, that our actions really do affect one another, and that what we do today affects what happens tomorrow.
These are not new lessons, but we have had to face them anew. May we not waste this moment. We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations. God mandates: 'Choose life, so that you and your children might live' (Dt 30:19). We must choose to live differently; we must choose life.
September is celebrated by many Christians as the Season of Creation, an opportunity to pray and care for God's creation. As world leaders prepare to meet in November at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and consider what the choices we must all make. Accordingly, as leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.
The Importance of SustainabilityIn our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures and the Saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see in the moment. The concept of stewardship—of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment—presents a vital starting-point for social, economic and environmental sustainability. In the New Testament, we read of the rich and foolish man who stores great wealth of grain while forgetting about his finite end (Lk 12.13—21). We learn of the prodigal son who takes his inheritance early, only to squander it and end up hungry (Lk 15.11—32). We are cautioned against adopting short term and seemingly inexpensive options of building on sand, instead of building on rock for our common home to withstand storms (Mt 7.24—27). These stories invite us to adopt a broader outlook and recognise our place in the extended story of humanity.
But we have taken the opposite direction. We have maximised our own interest at the expense of future generations. By concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage. Technology has unfolded new possibilities for progress but also for accumulating unrestrained wealth, and many of us behave in ways which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the planet. Nature is resilient, yet delicate. We are already witnessing the consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve it (Gn 2.15). Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction. We must pursue generosity and fairness in the ways that we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.
The Impact on People Living with PovertyThe current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God's creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth's resources than the planet can endure. But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them. We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God's image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.
Today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent matter of survival. Widespread floods, fires and droughts threaten entire continents. Sea levels rise, forcing whole communities to relocate; cyclones devastate entire regions, ruining lives and livelihoods. Water has become scarce and food supplies insecure, causing conflict and displacement for millions of people. We have already seen this in places where people rely on small scale agricultural holdings. Today we see it in more industrialised countries where even sophisticated infrastructure cannot completely prevent extraordinary destruction.
Tomorrow could be worse. Today's children and teenagers will face catastrophic consequences unless we take responsibility now, as 'fellow workers with God' (Gn 2.4—7), to sustain our world. We frequently hear from young people who understand that their futures are under threat. For their sake, we must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits. We repent of our generation's sins. We stand alongside our younger sisters and brothers throughout the world in committed prayer and dedicated action for a future which corresponds ever more to the promises of God.
The Imperative of CooperationOver the course of the pandemic, we have learned how vulnerable we are. Our social systems frayed, and we found that we cannot control everything. We must acknowledge that the ways we use money and organize our societies have not benefited everyone. We find ourselves weak and anxious, submersed in a series of crises; health, environmental, food, economic and social, which are all deeply interconnected.
These crises present us with a choice. We are in a unique position either to address them with shortsightedness and profiteering or seize this as an opportunity for conversion and transformation. If we think of humanity as a family and work together towards a future based on the common good, we could find ourselves living in a very different world. Together we can share a vision for life where everyone flourishes. Together we can choose to act with love, justice and mercy. Together we can walk towards a fairer and fulfilling society with those who are most vulnerable at the centre.
But this involves making changes. Each of us, individually, must take responsibility for the ways we use our resources. This path requires an ever-closer collaboration among all churches in their commitment to care for creation. Together, as communities, churches, cities and nations, we must change route and discover new ways of working together to break down the traditional barriers between peoples, to stop competing for resources and start collaborating.
To those with more far-reaching responsibilities—heading administrations, running companies, employing people or investing funds—we say: choose people-centred profits; make short-term sacrifices to safeguard all our futures; become leaders in the transition to just and sustainable economies. 'To whom much is given, much is required.' (Lk 12:48)
This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation. Together, on behalf of our communities, we appeal to the heart and mind of every Christian, every believer and every person of good will. We pray for our leaders who will gather in Glasgow to decide the future of our planet and its people. Again, we recall Scripture: 'choose life, so that you and your children may live' (Dt 30:19). Choosing life means making sacrifices and exercising self-restraint.
All of us—whoever and wherever we are—can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation.
Caring for God's creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment. This is a critical moment. Our children's future and the future of our common home depend on it.
1st September 2021
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew • Pope Francis • Archbishop of Canterbury
Message of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
to UN Secretary-General
António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres
on the occasion of
the International Summit on Climate Action
We are convinced that governments, universities, businesses, civil society, people of faith and all people of good will must unite behind science in a determined and harmonious effort to save God’s creation from human-induced climate change, which is now threatening the natural world and human livelihoods at an unprecedented scale.
Your Excellency António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
We are encouraged by the work that Your Excellency has done to combat climate change during your tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations and look forward to the further advancement of the response of the international community to this crisis at the upcoming Climate Action Summit. This noble initiative has the potential to reinforce and enforce a solid framework for a post-carbon era along a socially just pathway to its consequent challenges. We are reminded of the nine symposia we hosted on the environment, two of which were co-hosted with your predecessor, His Excellency Kofi Annan.
In view of the Climate Action Summit, we urge you and all leaders of the international community to increase the ambition and accelerate the progress toward meeting the decarbonization targets of the Paris Agreement, as well as to begin looking beyond to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s indisputable imperative for net zero emissions as soon as possible. Furthermore, we encourage the world’s economically developed countries to provide the necessary financial support to developing countries in order to facilitate a socially equitable and efficient transition to an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly course of development. While investment models can be successful, charitable giving must not be overlooked.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary since the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s first encyclical on the protection of the environment. Along the way, the Vatican and the Anglican Communion, as well as the World Council of Churches, have embraced and endorsed September 1st as a global day of prayer for the environment. Through our annual encyclicals, we implore the global community to work together to save the planet. We are convinced that governments, universities, businesses, civil society, people of faith and all people of good will must unite behind science in a determined and harmonious effort to save God’s creation from human-induced climate change, which is now threatening the natural world and human livelihoods at an unprecedented scale. Now more than ever humanity must stand above all cultural and other differences – be they national or religious divisions, historic and partisan enmities, economic and personal interests – in order to ensure a bright future for our children and for generations yet to come.
Finally, please know that our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is in General Consultative Status through ECOSOC and represents the Orthodox Church at the United Nations. Thus, we are prepared to partner in advocacy for the protection of our precious environment.
Thanking Your Excellency for your sincere consideration of our request, we convey to you our Patriarchal prayers and best wishes for the climate saving deliberations at the New York Summit on September 23, 2019.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the tenth of September, 2019
Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
The Ecumenical Throne and the Church of Ukraine
Synodal Letter to the Patriarch of Moscow in the year 1686
☩The apostolic word is that all things ought to be done for the purpose of edification, whether this concerns what we do or what we say, so that the objective of our actions should be to instruct our neighbor and guide our brother to his benefit. For the divine apostle recommends that neither should we ever cease from seeing all people as our brothers nor should we refrain from advising them toward correction, leading them toward salvation and reminding each of them not to neglect their own promise but rather, with vigilant eyes and focused impulses of the mind, to urge each one of them to their proper healing. This is precisely how, to this very day, those of us who have succeeded the apostles in this promise must conduct ourselves. For reasons known to the omniscient and omnipotent God, who governs all things, our modesty has also inherited this promise among those successors, which is why we have presided over the synodal meeting of our venerable brother hierarchs. There, venerable letters appeared from: 1) the most serene, most Orthodox and divinely crowned royalty, the great principals of Moscovy, their excellencies and brothers Ivan Alexeyevich and Peter Alexeyevich, also emperors of the greater and lesser and white Russia, as well as of many protectorates, along with native lands of the east, west and north, descendants of their forefathers and precious rulers according to the Lord, while at the same time beloved sons of our own innermost selves; and 2) His Beatitude venerable Patriarch Joachim of Moscovy and All Russia, our beloved brother and concelebrant in the Holy Spirit, as well as the most pious and most eminent subject of the aforementioned preeminent and great emperors of the Zaporizhian regiments on both sides of the Dnieper River region, their beloved son and Ataman Ivan Samuilovich.
Wherefore, we declare that, inasmuch as the Eparchy of Kyiv is subjected to the supreme and most holy Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople, it would therefore always have received from this throne the ordination of its hierarch in accordance with the command of the sacred canons; however, inasmuch as this metropolis has been vacant for a number of years now, while much time has also elapsed since the ordination of its authentic hierarch because of certain battles transpiring between the two vast empires; and inasmuch as this moment and occasion has been expediently seized by the enemy of the right, true, holy and blameless faith of Orthodox Christians, sowing weeds and thorns among the wheat (that is to say, within Orthodoxy), which risks becoming subdued by foreign and hostile mentalities; for this reason, then, we have been asked with great respect and heartfelt petition to grant permission to His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscovy to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv whenever this metropolis is deprived of an authentic hierarch, or in the case where its acting hierarch—duly elected in that eparchy by its own bishops, archimandrites, abbots of its holy monasteries, and others, as is customary—is ever defrocked on reasonable grounds, that this community may not henceforth remain unprotected, especially since it is apparent to everyone that this difficult matter is extremely complicated at this time, when the enemy of the truth, namely the devil, is already sowing the weeds of heresy and schismatic teachings. So our preeminent and mighty sovereign kingdom directed that, in response to the request of this most serene and profoundly Christian empire to avoid any kind of hurdle in this case. Wherefore, inasmuch as our modesty happens to preside over the Ecumenical Throne and acknowledges that we must demonstrate as much care as possible to those who require such care, we gladly welcomed this petition as being reasonable and right, meriting an address on our part concerning those things that we have been entrusted from God, which is also why we have deemed it worthy of protecting in writing herewith.
Thus, in recording this with the hierarchs of our holy synod, our most honorable and beloved brothers and concelebrants in the Holy Spirit, we resolve: That the most holy Eparchy of Kyiv should be subjected to the most holy patriarchal throne of the great and God-saved city Moscovy, by which we mean that the Metropolitan of Kyiv should be ordained there, whenever such need arises, by His Beatitude the Patriarch of Moscovy as the one elected by those in that eparchy, namely the right reverend bishops, very reverend archimandrites, righteous abbots of the holy and venerable monasteries, righteous hieromonks, pious clergy, righteous monks, rulers and others, at the exhortation and with the permission of the most distinguished great Ataman there, which has prevailed as the custom in that region, in order to receive from him the said act in writing, while recognizing him as his elder and presiding (hierarch), since he has been ordained by him, rather than by the ecumenical patriarch, as mentioned above, on account of the immense distance and the battles transpiring between the two kingdoms. We adopted a manner of condescension in accordance with the very old custom and granted to him such permission for reasons of οἰκονομία. Nevertheless, whenever this Metropolitan of Kyiv celebrates the sacred, holy and bloodless sacrifice in this diocese, he should commemorate among the first the venerable name of the Ecumenical Patriarch as his source and authority, and as superior to all dioceses and eparchies everywhere, followed by the commemoration of the Patriarch of Moscovy as his elder, without any resistance or refusal whatsoever in this, but accepting it as a reasonable and right act. Whosoever conceives anything contradictory to this, or in any other way seeks to disobey or demonstrate opposition to the command of the Lord, will in return receive appropriate penalties by the Lord as despising the patriarchs, who are the living and breathing images of God. Wherefore, this synodal Letter of Issue was written in declaration and confirmation of this matter in the sacred codex of our Great Church of Christ, and after being recorded, it was handed to His Beatitude Patriarch Joachim of Moscovy in the year of the Lord 1686, the month of June of the 9th indiction.