Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew share much in common--spiritually, theologically, and in their longing for unity between the Latin and Eastern Orthodox Churches. They also share a passion for respect for the environment rooted solidly in Biblical principles.

His All-Holiness recently made a journey to the United States to address the Mississippi River Symposium sponsored by "Religion, Science and the Environment," of which the Ecumenical Patriarch is a major player. He is so concerned about the future of the planet that there is a hot button on the Ecumenical Patriarchate's web-site called "Orthodoxy and the Environment." He has been nicknamed "The Green Patriarch." The following quote shows why:

Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God. The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator. Such is the true nature of things; or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it, “the truth of things,” if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.

Last week Pope Benedict matched his Eastern Orthodox brother with his message for the World Day of Prayer for Peace, titled "If you want to cultivate peace, protect the environment." It is a strongly worded message insisting that our task as a human family is to be stewards of creation and not destroyers of it--a message the Pope takes back to God's command to Adam in Genesis 2. He backs up the theology of creation with a citation from The Catechism of the Catholic Church: "...creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works."

Between East and West, the idea that environmental concern is somehow to be relegated to people dismissed as "tree-huggers" is utterly rejected. Honoring creation is seen as a critical and essential component of honoring the Creator; the converse is also true. Citing the famous ending passage of Dante's Paradiso, the Holy Father writes, "Contemplating the beauty of creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator, that Love which 'moves the sun and all the other stars.'"

The Pope (in the spirit of the Ecumenical Patriarch) asks that we be prepared, for the sake of the world, the poor, and future generations, to "encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing...energy consumption..." Is this a task we as a nation, or as a world, can embrace? And what are the long-term (as well as short-term) consequences if we do not?

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