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Prayers for our Planet: World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

Photo Credit: Catholic News Service photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters

Over the past few centuries, human activities have contributed to more environmental degradation than ever before in history. Pollution is raising the planet’s core temperature, tainting what little clean drinking water remains, and rendering air unbreathable. Melting ice caps, ocean acidification, and disappearing coral reefs are just a few more effects of pollution and climate change. Constant wars and irresponsible mining techniques are shaking the earth’s plates causing earthquakes and watershed destruction in the most unnatural places. Corporations and other businesses are aggressively trying to buy and control the remaining clean water sources, and, therefore, effectively 70-80% of your body which is made of water. I know what you’re thinking:  this guy is a downer! And you’re right, this topic is bleak. But it’s a situation that we humans have created, which means it’s a situation that we humans have the power to mend.

There are too many great organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to mitigating environmental destruction to mention in one blog post. Therefore, this occasion will focus on the work of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a trail blazer in the area of environmental protection. Rather than bore you with lengthy paragraphs, though, here is a simple timeline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s major contributions over the past three decades:

1986 – The 3rd Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambésy expressed concern for the abuse of the natural environment, especially in affluent western societies.

1988 – “Revelation and the Future of Humanity” conference recommends the Ecumenical Patriarchate designate one day each year for the protection of the natural environment.

1989 – Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios publishes first encyclical letter on the environment, proclaiming September 1st the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

1990 – Monk Gerasimos Mikrayiannanites composes a service of supplication for the environment.

1991 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering entitled, “Living in the Creation of the Lord.”

1992 – The Orthodox Christian Primates endorse September 1st as a day of pan-Orthodox prayer for the environment.

1992 – The Duke of Edinburgh visits the Ecumenical Patriarchate for an environmental convocation at the Theological School of Halki.

1993 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visits the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace where they sealed a friendship of common purpose and active cooperation for the preservation of the environment.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and religious education.

1994 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew establishes the Religious and Scientific Committee (RSC) for dialogue with Christian confessions, other religious faiths, as well as scientific disciplines.

1995 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and ethics.

1995 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium I entitled Revelation and Environment under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Prince Philip.

1996 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and communications.

1997 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and justice.

1997 - The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium II entitled The Black Sea in Crisis under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission.

1998 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convenes ecological gathering at the Theological School of Halki on the environment and poverty.

1999 – The Halki Ecological Institute is created for inter-disciplinary vision and dialogue, implementing the ecological theory of the Religious and Scientific Committee into practice.

1999 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium III entitled River of Life – Down the Danube to the Black Sea under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium IV entitled The Adriatic Sea – a Sea at Risk, a Unity of Purpose under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2002 – Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew co-signed a document of environmental ethics entitled the “Venice Declaration.”

2003 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium V entitled The Baltic Sea – A Common Heritage, A Shared Responsibility under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

2003 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Norway co-sponsor the North Sea Conference.

2006 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VI entitled The Amazon: Source of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2007 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VII entitled The Arctic – Mirror of Life under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, H.E. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and H.E. Jose Barroso, President of the European Commission.

2008 – The World Council of Churches recognizes the leadership of the Orthodox Church and designates an annual “Time for Creation” from September 1st to October 4th.

2009 – The RSC, through Ms. Maria Becket’s coordination, hosts Symposium VIII entitled The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance under the auspices of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

2012 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit I at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and business.

2015 – The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Southern New Hampshire University convene Halki Summit II at the Theological School of Halki to address the environment and literature.

2015 – Pope Francis recognizes the September 1st World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation and designates it for the Roman Catholic Church, as well.

2018 – Stay tuned for the next great event, namely a symposium.

The most basic takeaways from these initiatives as well as other publications include: 1) all people from every discipline and every sector must work together to save the planet; 2) moderation of all people everywhere is essential; and 3) we must continuously build a loving relationship with our planet, being ever cautious not to exploit her.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that just this morning, continuing on this long history and in celebration of the mutually recognized World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis released a joint statement reaffirming the need for all people to be stewards of creation rather than lords over creation:

Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our voracity to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our rapacity for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs … [w]e urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and to support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.

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