Protection of Creation
Below is the full text of ......
A JOINT MESSAGE FOR THE PROTECTION OF CREATION
by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, Pope Francis of Rome,
and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
For more than a year, we have all experienced the
devastating effects of a global pandemic—all of us, whether poor or wealthy,
weak or strong. Some were more protected
or vulnerable than others, but the rapidly-spreading infection meant that we
have depended on each other in our efforts to stay safe. We realised that, in facing this worldwide
calamity, no one is safe until everyone is safe, that our actions really do
affect one another, and that what we do today affects what happens tomorrow.
These are not new lessons, but we have had to face them anew. May we not waste this moment. We must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations. God mandates: ‘Choose life, so that you and your children might live’ (Dt 30:19). We must choose to live differently; we must choose life.
September is celebrated by many Christians as the
Season of Creation, an opportunity to pray and care for God’s creation. As world leaders prepare to meet in November
at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and
consider what the choices we must all make.
Accordingly, as leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever
their belief or worldview, to endeavour to listen to the cry of the earth and
of people who are poor, examining their behaviour and pledging meaningful
sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us.
In our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures
and the Saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the
realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see
in the moment. The concept of
stewardship—of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given
endowment—presents a vital starting-point for social, economic and environmental
sustainability. In the New Testament, we
read of the rich and foolish man who stores great wealth of grain while
forgetting about his finite end (Lk 12.13–21).
We learn of the prodigal son who takes his inheritance early, only to
squander it and end up hungry (Lk 15.11–32).
We are cautioned against adopting short term and seemingly inexpensive
options of building on sand, instead of building on rock for our common home to
withstand storms (Mt 7.24–27). These
stories invite us to adopt a broader outlook and recognise our place in the
extended story of humanity.
But we have taken the opposite direction. We have maximised our own interest at the
expense of future generations. By
concentrating on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including the
bounty of nature, are depleted for short-term advantage. Technology has unfolded new possibilities for
progress but also for accumulating unrestrained wealth, and many of us behave
in ways which demonstrate little concern for other people or the limits of the
planet. Nature is resilient, yet
delicate. We are already witnessing the
consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve it (Gn 2.15). Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity
to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction. We must pursue generosity and fairness in the
ways that we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.
The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who
we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity
loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable
consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the
earth’s resources than the planet can endure.
But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most
catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and
have been the least responsible for causing them. We serve a God of justice, who delights in
creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of
people who are poor. Accordingly, there
is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such
Today, we are paying the price. The extreme weather and natural disasters of
recent months reveal afresh to us with great force and at great human cost that
climate change is not only a future challenge, but an immediate and urgent
matter of survival. Widespread floods,
fires and droughts threaten entire continents.
Sea levels rise, forcing whole communities to relocate; cyclones
devastate entire regions, ruining lives and livelihoods. Water has become scarce and food supplies
insecure, causing conflict and displacement for millions of people. We have already seen this in places where
people rely on small scale agricultural holdings. Today we see it in more industrialised
countries where even sophisticated infrastructure cannot completely prevent
Tomorrow could be worse. Today’s children and teenagers will face catastrophic consequences unless we take responsibility now, as ‘fellow workers with God’ (Gn 2.4–7), to sustain our world. We frequently hear from young people who understand that their futures are under threat. For their sake, we must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits. We repent of our generation’s sins. We stand alongside our younger sisters and brothers throughout the world in committed prayer and dedicated action for a future which corresponds ever more to the promises of God.
Over the course of the pandemic, we have learned
how vulnerable we are. Our social
systems frayed, and we found that we cannot control everything. We must acknowledge that the ways we use
money and organize our societies have not benefited everyone. We find ourselves weak and anxious, submersed
in a series of crises; health, environmental, food, economic and social, which
are all deeply interconnected.
These crises present us with a choice. We are in a unique position either to address
them with shortsightedness and profiteering or seize this as an opportunity for
conversion and transformation. If we
think of humanity as a family and work together towards a future based on the
common good, we could find ourselves living in a very different world. Together we can share a vision for life where
everyone flourishes. Together we can
choose to act with love, justice and mercy.
Together we can walk towards a fairer and fulfilling society with those
who are most vulnerable at the centre.
But this involves making changes. Each of us, individually, must take
responsibility for the ways we use our resources. This path requires an ever-closer
collaboration among all churches in their commitment to care for creation. Together, as communities, churches, cities
and nations, we must change route and discover new ways of working together to
break down the traditional barriers between peoples, to stop competing for
resources and start collaborating.
To those with more far-reaching responsibilities—heading administrations, running companies, employing people or investing funds—we say: choose people-centred profits; make short-term sacrifices to safeguard all our futures; become leaders in the transition to just and sustainable economies. ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ (Lk 12:48)
This is the first time that the three of us feel
compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its
impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation. Together, on behalf of our communities, we
appeal to the heart and mind of every Christian, every believer and every
person of good will. We pray for our
leaders who will gather in Glasgow to decide the future of our planet and its
people. Again, we recall Scripture:
‘choose life, so that you and your children may live’ (Dt 30:19). Choosing life means making sacrifices and
All of us—whoever and wherever we are—can play a
part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate
change and environmental degradation.
Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission
requiring a response of commitment. This
is a critical moment. Our children’s
future and the future of our common home depend on it.
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