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

Statement on Water by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the Budapest Water Summit (November 28-30, 2016)

Dear friends,

It is a special privilege to address the distinguished participants of the Budapest Water Summit, which has been organized by the Hungarian Government under the high patronage of His Excellency President János Áder.

As you may be aware, both the theme and the venue of your important gathering are very close to the heart and ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Indeed, almost two decades ago, we addressed the authorities and people of Budapest during our Third International, Inter-Religious and Inter-Disciplinary Symposium, entitled “The Danube: A River of Life.” It was a unique event – sailing along the Danube from Germany to Romania in October of 1999, with religious and political leaders, as well as scientists, activists and journalists – highlighting the pollution of cities along this great river.
At that time, we underlined that the church cannot be solely interested in the salvation of the soul, but is deeply concerned with the transformation of God’s entire creation. Therefore, what is a threat to nature is also a threat to humankind; just as what is for the preservation of the planet is for the salvation of the whole world.

Water is as life-giving and sacred as the blood that runs through our body. It does not belong to any individual or any industry, but is the inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being.

Unless we appreciate the danger – perhaps even sinfulness – of refusing to share the planet’s natural resources, we will inevitably face serious challenges and conflicts. Sustainability is not just sound technology and good business. Sustainability is the way to peaceful coexistence.

We wish you every success in the deliberations and decisions of your vital summit. May God bless you all