The ecological activities of the Ecumenical Patriarchate served as the inspiration for theology to advance prominently the truth of Christian anthropology and cosmology, the Eucharistic worldview and treatment of creation, along with the spirit of Orthodox asceticism as the basis for understanding the reason for and response to the ecological crisis. The bibliography related to theological ecology or ecological theology is extensive and on the whole constitutes an admirable Orthodox witness before the major challenges of contemporary humanity and earthly life. Concern for the ecological crisis and for the global dimensions and consequences of sin – of this alienating internal “reversal of values” in humankind – brought to the surface the connection between ecological and social issues as well as for the need to address them jointly. Mobilizing forces for the protection of the integrity of creation and for social justice are interconnected and inseparable actions.
The interest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the protection of creation did not arise as a reaction to or as a result of the contemporary ecological crisis. The latter was simply the motivation and occasion for the Church to express, develop, proclaim and promote its environmentally-friendly principles. The foundation of the Church’s undiminished concern for the natural environment lies in its ecclesiological identity and theology. Respect and care for creation are a dimension of our faith, the content of our life in the Church and as the Church. The very life of the Church is “an experienced ecology,” an applied respect and care for creation, and the source of its environmental activities. In essence, the interest of the Church for the protection of the environment is the extension of the Holy Eucharist in all dimensions of its relationship to the world. The liturgical life of the Church, the ascetic ethos, pastoral service and experience of the cross and resurrection by the faithful, the unquenchable desire for eternity: all of these comprise a communion of persons for which the natural reality cannot be reduced to an object or useful matter to meet the needs of an individual or humanity; by contrast, this reality is considered as an act, deed the handiwork of a personal God, who calls us to respect and protect it, thereby rendering us His “coworkers,” “stewards,” “guardians,” and “priests” of creation in order to cultivate a Eucharistic relationship with it.
Care for the natural environment is not an added activity, but an essential expression of church life. It does not have a secular, but rather a purely ecclesiastical character. It is a “liturgical ministry.” All of the initiatives and activities of the Church are “applied ecclesiology.” In this sense, theological ecology does not merely refer to the development of an ecological awareness or the response to ecological problems on the basis of the principles of Christian anthropology and cosmology. On the contrary, it involves the renewal of the whole creation in Christ, just as this is realized and experienced in the Holy Eucharist, which is an image and foretaste of the eschatological fullness of the Divine Economy in the doxological wholeness and luminous splendor of the heavenly kingdom.
Most honorable brothers and most precious children in the Lord,
The ecological crisis reveals that our world comprises an integral whole, that our problems are global and shared. In order to meet these challenges, we require a multilayered mobilization, a common accord, direction and action. It is inconceivable for humankind to recognize the severity of the problem and yet continue to behave in oblivion. While in recent decades the dominant model of economic development in the context of globalization – highlighting the fetishism of financial markers and magnification of financial profit – has exacerbated ecological and economic problems, the notion still prevails widely that “there is no other alternative” and that not conforming to the rigid validity logic of the world’s economy will lead to unbridled social and financial situations. Thus, any alternative forms of development, along with the power of social solidarity and justice, are overlooked and undermined.