“IT IS not too late to act; but we cannot afford to wait.” That is the message to the Paris climate-summit from the highest authority in Orthodox Christianity, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
“Our world is indeed in crisis,” he said on Tuesday, at Lambeth Palace. “We stand at a critical moment in the history of our planet. This is why Paris will be the centre of the world’s expectations — longing for long-overdue climate action.”
The Patriarch was speaking as part of a series of lectures on the environment arranged during his visit to Lambeth Palace, which began on Monday. In his talk, Patriarch Bartholomew said that combating climate change was a moral and religious imperative.
“We have been saying for nearly three decades that global warming is a moral challenge. It’s a crisis within the human heart. The solution is not only a matter of science, technology, and politics, but perhaps primarily a matter of radical change of . . . ethics.”
Politicians will gather in Paris for a UN conference this month, and will attempt to thrash out a deal to cut carbon emissions. Patriarch Bartholomew will take part in the summit by speaking to religious leaders.
“We cannot separate our concern for human dignity and social justice from the concern for ecological preservation and sustainability,” he said on Tuesday.
The Revd Dr John Chryssavgis, an Orthodox priest who works with Patriarch Bartholomew, said that healing the broken planet was not a “luxury” for the Church, but a necessity. “We cannot expect scientists to change world-views. We cannot expect corporations to repent of their sins; and we can’t rely on politicians.” Religious leaders had to demand that mankind should stop the sin of “polluting the creation”.
Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury introduced Patriarch Bartholomew by hailing his decades of activism on environmental issues. “Over the years, his religion, science, and environment initiatives have brought together some of the world’s leading experts to look in detail at how humanity is affecting God’s world,” Archbishop Welby said.
Ever since his enthronement in 1991, Patriarch Bartholomew has campaigned for Christians to engage with environmental concerns, earning him the epithet “the Green Patriarch” (Feature, 5 September 2008).
After the lectures, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman MP, said that it would ultimately have to be politicians who took decisive action on climate change. “Some are converted to the cause, but others are apprehensive,” she said.
Archbishop Welby and Patriarch Bartholomew then held a prayer vigil in the Lambeth Palace chapel. Archbishop Welby opened the service by praying for refugees who were risking their lives to escape conflict and seeking “sanctuary, help, and love”.
He also asked God to “strengthen those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response to the refugee crisis, and for those negotiating in Paris later this month”.
He concluded: “For the greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth: Father, forgive.”