The financial and economic crisis experienced by many societies could bring about a powerful change to "sustainable environmental development", says Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I of Constantinople.
Istanbul-based Bartholomeos was marking the Day for Creation, 1 September, as a group of Roman Catholic bishops were leading a "green" pilgrimage reflecting a theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the 2010 World Day of Peace: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation."
Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erd, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), began the pilgrimage at the Esztergom Basilica on 1 September 2010 in its trek through three countries in the heart of the continent, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. It ends on 5 September.
"Concern for creation has always been part of the bishops' conference's work," said CCEE's General Secretary, the Rev Duarte da Cunha.
In his statement, the Ecumenical Patriarch, considered one of the world's most influential Orthodox leaders said, "It is important to note that the current grievous financial crisis may spark the much-reported and absolutely essential shift to environmentally viable development … and not unbridled financial gain."
He noted, "If ecosystems deteriorate and disappear, natural sources become depleted, and landscapes suffer destruction, and climate change produces unpredictable weather conditions, on what basis will the financial future of these countries and the planet as a whole depend?"
The statement by Bartholomeos follows in the tradition of his predecessor as Ecumenical Patriarch, Demitrios I, who proclaimed 1 September, the first day of the Orthodox church year, as a day of prayer for the environment
The same date is now known to many Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians as the beginning of the Time for Creation, as 40 days during which churches and congregations are called to pay special attention to the human responsibility for the earth.
In 2010, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches has proposed to extend the Time for Creation until 10 October, so as to join a global civil society movement (www.350.org) that is celebrating climate solutions around the world on that date.
Catholic bishops' pilgrimage: www.ccee.ch/index.php?&na=4,1,0,0,e,125193,0,0,
Ecumenical Patriarch: www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=1223&tla=en
World Council of Churches: www.oikoumene.org/
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]