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 the UNFCCC COP-23 Session (Bonn, Germany, November 6-17, 2017)

The 23rd session of the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change provides occasion to recall with introspection and reflect with integrity on the state of our world, but also on where we have come and where we are headed as a global community, especially in light of the urgent call of the Paris Agreement.

Last November, our message to COP-22 was that we “hold nations accountable to resolutions reached or for violations incurred, especially as we know the intimate connections of climate change to global poverty, migration and unrest.”

This June, prior to the G-20 summit in Hamburg, we endorsed a letter inspired by Mission 2020 “calling on nations to highlight the importance of the 2020 climate turning point for greenhouse-gas emissions.”

On September 1st, the day when the Ecumenical Patriarchate first initiated – back in 1989 – a plea for prayers to protect God’s creation from human avarice, we co-signed a declaration with Pope Francis, affirming “that there can be no enduring resolution to climate change unless the response is concerted and collective.”

This year, our annual pastoral letter to Orthodox faithful worldwide expressed “our consternation that, while it is clear that the ecological crisis is constantly escalating in the name of growth and development, humanity remains oblivious to the global appeals for radical change in our attitudes toward creation.”

And last month, at Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, we assured heads of states, scholars and indigenous representatives that “today, more and more people recognize that religious consciousness and environmental science are alike concerned with ultimate questions—namely, with the way that we are shaping the destiny of humankind, the planet, and all creation.”

Still, even as so many recognize climate change arguably as the greatest crisis that humanity has faced, there is much resistance to any call for change. Some continue to ignore the signs of our times with unprecedented ice melting, extreme weather patterns, and devastating impact on world poverty.

Over the last year, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has increased its involvement and influence within religious, scientific and political circles. We therefore humbly urge you—especially all faith communities and leaders, who can make an enormous difference in convincing governments and corporations—never to submit to complacency, but ever to amplify and intensify your efforts.

It is unacceptable to backpedal in any way. Yet, it is also unjustifiable any longer to mark time. We are all called to move forward in our commitment to the sacredness of “the least of our brothers and sisters” as well as to the uniqueness of every last grain of sand on this planet that we call home.

At the Phanar, on November 1, 2017.