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 to Ukrainian Journalists (Venerable Patriarchal Church of Saint George, July 2, 2017)

It is our joy today to address the Ukrainian people through the Ukrainian media. The journalistic profession has a significant function today, in a world of instant communication. The role of journalists is to convey true information to people in order that they would understand better the challenges and the situations in which they live. This function demands great responsibility and may present many temptations. As a political figure recently stated, “when news outlets spread despicable lies, they are no longer journalists. They are organs of influence”. Journalists, especially when they consider themselves Christians, should always speak the truth, in order to serve faithfully our Lord Jesus Christ who is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Having completed with the grace of God twenty-five years of patriarchal ministry, it is not necessary to describe our love for the Ukrainian people. We recall with great emotions our visit to Ukraine in 2008 and the most generous and magnificent hospitality we received in Kiev remains forever in our mind and in our heart. Throughout the years of our patriarchal ministry, there has been constant contact between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian people, and this is not surprising, since the spiritual relations that unite the Mother Church with Ukraine could never disappear. The Ukrainian people received the baptism into the Christian faith from Constantinople at the time of the Holy Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev, and, therefore, the Church of Constantinople remains forever the Mother Church of the Ukrainian people. As a loving mother, the Mother Church can never forget her spiritual children, especially at moments of trial and difficulties.

We are close to you, especially during trying times; we accompany you with our prayers and blessings. We send our blessing, love and concern for each and every Ukrainian, without any exception. We pray for the unity of the Ukrainian people. We pray for peace in Ukraine. Our hope is that fratricidal war would cease. The history of Ukraine should teach the Ukrainian people today, in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past. A son of the holy Grand Prince Vladimir, Yaroslav the Wise, promoted the spread of Christianity in the Kievan state by founding churches and monasteries and issuing a law code called the Russkaya Pravda—inspired by Christian principles—which excluded, for example, capital punishment. In his testament, Yaroslav sought to prevent a power struggle among his five sons by dividing his empire among them. Apprehending the danger that could ensue from divisions between brothers, he exhorted them to live in peace with each other. Unfortunately, the advice of the wise father was not followed, and divisions resulted, which weakened the Kievan state.

The story of Saint Vladimir and his son Yaroslav should edify the Ukrainian people today. Their conversion to Christianity may have been for mainly political reasons, but, at its root, adoption of a state religion was intended to create the conditions of peace and stability so that culture and spiritual development could flourish. The same is true today. Unity and peace are highly desired and essential for the people and the Church of Ukraine. This spirit of unity is at once a fragile treasure as well as a gift from above, which has been entrusted to us by the Trinitarian God for our safekeeping and delight. It is this same spirit of unity that we fervently pray and hope for in order that it might also prevail in Ukraine.

For this reason, we make our own the words of the Holy Apostle Paul to the divided Church in Corinth: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). May God bless all of you!