Address - Προσλαλιά

ADDRESS By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew For World Environment Day (Boeotia, Greece, 6 June, 2017)

Your Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic,
Your Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece
Most Reverend brother Hierarchs,
Your Excellency the Regional Governor of Central Greece,
Dear friends and participants,

We are wholeheartedly grateful for the gracious invitation to the festivities for World Environment Day. More particularly, the opportunity to visit the ecologically troubled region of the Asopus River provides an occasion to spotlight the regional dimension of environmental issues, which collectively foster an unprecedented crisis that plagues the entire world.

For more than twenty-five years, the exacerbation of the ecological crisis, along with its attendant social and financial inequalities, have created unusual concern and vigilance for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In the context of the international waterborne symposia organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate from 1995 in various ecological critical places of the world, the images of devastation that we witnessed in numerous locations of our planet were heartbreaking for both us as visitors but particularly for the inhabitants of those distressed places. In every situation, the environmental destruction was accompanied by social and economic decline, unemployment and diminished quality of life.

For the Church, the natural world is God’s creation, while every material and living thing on the planet constitutes the earthly domain where God’s sacred will is manifested. After all, as the holy Fathers formulated many centuries ago, “all things have need of one another, and all things are sustained by mutually supporting one another.” (Athanasius the Great) Already from the fourth century, the Church Fathers were aware of the fact that all members of creation, including human beings, are interconnected and interdependent. This is precisely the definition of ecological balance proposed by environmental scientists in our time as the supreme principle, inviting us to maintain and sustain this balance.

The environmental crisis of the Asopus River demonstrates the manifold responsibilities of all people for the effective preservation of the integrity of creation. Government, corporations, academic scholarship, civil society, the Church and, of course, every citizen of good will must personally bear and share the burden of protecting the natural systems that support every form of life on earth.

Nevertheless, the crisis of the Asopus River also highlights the value of scientific research for the appreciation and resolution of the crucial challenges related to pollution, biodiversity and primarily climate change. In brief, the Asopus is a microcosm of the global ecological crisis, becoming synonymous with toxic waste and lethal contamination.

As we know from published scholarly studies, the Asopus River comprises one of the most familiar cases of pollution caused by the highly toxic hexavalent chromium and other metals that have been scientifically proved to be harmful and carcinogenic to human beings. In fact, the close association between environmental wellbeing and human health is acknowledged by the Council of Europe, especially through the resolution of its Committee of Social Rights on the Asopus River.

The challenges of water pollution in the basin of the Asopus River are to a great degree the result of a lack of systematic ecological and industrial infrastructure as well as the absence of legal regulations with rigorous implementation for waste in the vulnerable ecosystem.

Science provides a guaranteed foundation for the resolution and prevention of environmental devastation, but also for the partial restoration of environmental destruction. Yet, no technical or technological achievement can ultimately address the ecological crisis in its root causes. And the roots of our ecological crisis are found precisely in the transgression by humankind of its balanced relationship with the natural environment and in the incapacity of the natural ecosystems and resources to sustain our contemporary lifestyle. To be more precise, our very own financially developed world is already leaving an untenable footprint through the greedy production and consumption of goods, the uncontrollable pollution of modern transportation, the limitless waste and endless carbon emissions, together with the vast industrial and nuclear accidents, all of which contribute immensely to global warming and climate change with irreparable and irreversible ramifications.

So protecting nature is eventually and essentially in the interest of everyone. Local communities, farmers, agriculturists, businesses, educators, clergy, young and old – all of us should be conscripted as guardians of the natural environment. Each of us has a moral mandate and responsibility before God – and of course before the whole world – to care for and preserve creation. A clean Asopus denotes a clean world; a clean environment reflects a clean society; and a clean trade involves a clean heart.

The Holy and Great Church of Christ sincerely congratulates and commends all those who contributed to the restoration of the natural order in this region, while also warmly thanking His Beatitude our brother Archbishop Ieronymos, the offspring of Boeotia, and His Eminence Metropolitan Georgios of Thebes and Levadeia, the local hierarch of this sacred eparchy, as well as our beloved and prodigious Regional Governor of Central Greece, His Excellency Konstantinos Bakoyiannis, for this distinguished invitation.

May God protect Boeotia and all of Greece.