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 By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the Natural Catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey

The ongoing devastation of Hurricane (now Tropical Storm) Harvey in the Gulf shore region of Texas, and particularly in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is a grim reminder of the terrifying power of nature. Our Ecumenical Patriarchate grieves over the heart-rending loss of life, and bemoans the tremendous loss of property and painful ruin of so many thousands of families’ lives. We pray for the eternal repose of those whose lives were cut short by this calamity, as well as for the consolation of the bereaved families.

We remember our Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and those who minister and labor for the Orthodox faithful of Houston. We pray for all civil authorities, particularly for those brave women and men providing emergency services and relief to those in desperate circumstances. May God provide them strength and fortitude in this, their hour of need.

We call upon our Holy Archdiocese of America to provide aid and assistance as it is able, whether through the International Orthodox Christian Charities, the National Philoptochos, or Archdiocesan discretionary resources. Now is the time for compassion and solidarity in action, and we commend those who have already done so.

Now is also a time to reflect on the awesome power of creation, and our human responsibility to be good and wise stewards of the environment. We are all called to participate in the redemption and stewardship of our world whether it is through working to ameliorate the destructive force of such hurricanes by better environmental planning; or committing more seriously to the grave issue of climate change and how it is affecting our planet; or even becoming personally involved in the charities that provide comfort and support to those whose lives are so drastically changed in the blink of an eye.

As we join together in these important humanitarian acts, we will ever call upon God our Maker, Who is All-Merciful and the true Philanthropos, that He may ‘remember His covenant which is between Him and us and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh’ (Genesis 9:15). Amen.

August 29, 2017