Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew says young people can ‘save democracy and our planet’ | Earth beat
Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are interrelated crises that challenge churches to respond with both faith and science, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the University of Notre Dame said on October 28, where he received an honorary doctorate.
“It is our obligation before God, neighbor and creation to take responsibility for fighting climate change and suppressing the pandemic,” the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church told his audience.
Speaking directly to students in the basilica where the ceremony held after vespers, Bartholomew said young people offer “the optimism we so yearn for, the willingness to accept change and sacrifice, the ability to overcome polarization and partisanship, the conviction to be catalysts social and ecological justice as well as, quite frankly, the opportunity to save democracy and our planet. “
He added, “May God grant your generation the wisdom and courage to continue to lead this charge and this mandate. “
Bartholomew, who was one of the early leaders of the Christian environmental movement and linked up with Pope Francis on environmental issues, is on a week-long visit to the United States which began on October 23.
In September, he joined with Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury in calling for strong action on climate change so that future generations can live on a healthy planet. And on October 4, he was among nearly 40 religious leaders who joined Francis at the Vatican to present a call for urgent action to world leaders who will meet in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1-2 at the opening of the United Nations climate conference. conference, COP26.
In his address to Notre-Dame, Barthélémy stressed the importance of making political decisions based on scientific evidence and the need for believers to work together to find solutions.
“We religious leaders are humbly and patiently called to cooperate with leaders in the scientific and academic worlds, as well as the corporate and political spheres,” he said, adding that “concern for creation brings us believers divided and isolated before a common task that we must face together. “
The Patriarch also called for ecocide – massive damage or destruction of ecosystems – to be declared an international crime.
“As human beings we certainly understand that we cannot hurt our brothers and sisters, that there are moral, social and legal consequences” to actions, he said. “Why, then, do we not realize that there should be moral, social, and legal repercussions when we harm God’s creation? “
Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic raise “ultimate questions about life and death, disease and suffering, as well as health care and justice,” the patriarch said. In addressing the double crisis, he added, churches play a crucial role with their interdependent messages of faith in God and love of neighbor, symbolized by the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross.
During the pandemic, the church learned the “important but humbling lesson” that “religion must function and serve in relation to, and never apart from science,” he added. “Faith alone will not overcome the problems of our time, but the challenges of our time certainly will not be overcome without faith.”
Protecting the environment, he said, “involves constant pain and forgiveness, a relentless preference and priority for what we really value, for what really matters.” It is through “a spiritual and moral response”, he added, that people of faith “become a healing and transforming presence among our neighbors and on our planet”.