Statement on the Global Wildfires

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 

In recent weeks, our planet has witnessed extreme heatwaves and expansive wildfires throughout the world—from the rain forests of the Amazon and desert regions of Africa, normally snow-covered regions such as the Arctic and Alaska to far away countries from Spain to Siberia. Month after month, we have experienced record temperatures and unprecedented heatwaves, resulting in the destruction of millions of acres and the disruption of millions of people. And the intensity of these fires and storms is progressively increasing and intensifying, mandating critical and commensurate changes on our part.  

Scientists warn us about the threat of such fires to the world’s ecosystems, which are becoming increasingly jeopardized and vulnerable. The impact of these fires could reverberate for generations, affecting soil, infrastructure, and human beings. Trees are vital for the soil, for our survival and for our soul. Trees are not simply valuable for their aesthetic beauty or commercial benefit, but essentially for our defense against climate change. Planting more trees is certainly commendable, but cutting down less trees is perhaps the most compelling response to global warming. 

While this global wildfire crisis may not entirely or exclusively be a consequence or cause of climate change, the calamitous events that the world is now experiencing undoubtedly and undeniably sound the alarm about the urgent and dire repercussions of a rising level of carbon emissions. Therefore, if nothing else, such extreme phenomena compel us to consider the fundamental fragility of nature, the limited resources of our planet, and the unique sacredness of creation.

In our Encyclical that will appear on September 1st, we outline the diverse initiatives and activities pioneered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the last thirty years, while observing the fundamental principles and precepts proposed by the Orthodox Church over the last twenty centuries with regard to preserving God’s creation.

We pray for all those threatened or afflicted by the fires in all corners of our world. We call all faithful and all people of good will to consider carefully how we live, what we consume, and where our priorities lie, using the words of the Divine Liturgy: “Let us pay attention! Let us stand with awe!”

At the Phanar, Saturday August 24th, 2019

MESSAGE by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the 84th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor (Phanar, November 25, 2017)

It is with a heavy heart that we call to recollection one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century, namely, the tragic events in Ukraine during the years 1932-1933. Today, our Ecumenical Patriarchate joins Ukrainians across the globe in prayerful commemoration on the 84th anniversary of the Holodomor. Surrounded by the members of our local Ukrainian Orthodox Community and representatives of various nations serving in our City, we will preside over the celebration of the Divine Liturgy as well as personally offer a memorial service for the millions of people who inhumanely lost their lives during the orchestrated man-imposed famine.

Our Mother Church of Constantinople—which transformed centuries ago the river waters of the Dnieper into the sanctified living waters of rejuvenation and life eternal—was forever bonded spiritually to the Christ-loving nation of Ukraine, continuing to actively share in its pride and its joys, but also in its sorrows, always demonstrating Pauline ecclesiology: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

In the spirit of sharing intimately in the life of Ukraine, the Holy and Great Church of Christ stands in prayerful silence and solidarity with the victims of the Holodomor, contemplating the magnitude of death and destruction carried out by the oppressor.

 “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And it is the truth of the Lord that liberates. For, the world witnessed in Ukraine the destruction and death of millions of people due to falsehood and a godless ideology, but it continues to recognize the rejuvenation, baptism, and eternal life offered centuries ago by our holy predecessors, the saintly and wise Patriarchs of Constantinople. The “water road” of the Dnieper River system was transformed into a bridge leading to heaven.

While prayerfully commemorating the atrocity of famine, we would also like to make a prayerful appeal to all people of goodwill for the cessation of the war, aggression and ongoing violence in Ukraine, as well as to underscore the importance of respecting human rights and dignity, most especially of the prisoners of war, for whose safety and release we Orthodox pray for at every divine service. The aggressions and crimes witnessed in the early 20th century should not be repeated once again; rather, we should strive to be mechanisms of reconciliation and rapprochement, especially having fresh in our minds the disastrous results of the conflict and hostility 84 years ago. Let us all, each from our own standpoint, personally and collectively, work to de-escalate tension and cultivate dialogue and mutual understanding, so that the dark chapters of the early 20th century will never reappear before us.

Eternal be the memories of the victims of this travesty. And may peace and prosperity be granted unto Ukraine.