Message of Patriarch Bartholomew I to the 19th Congress of the Parties (COP19)

Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Environmentalism | 1 comment

200px-Constantinople_coat_of_armsA message from His All-Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, to the 19th Congress of the Parties (COP19) which is meeting in Warsaw, Poland, as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, can be found on the Patriarchate’s website.

A few people have asked me to comment on the Patriarch’s message in light of the monograph which Dr Morriss & I recently authored. I’m not sure that I can, and for a simple reason: I am a student of the Fathers and of Orthodox theology, and most of the Patriarch’s message urges political action on the international level, about which I am not competent to write. The Patriarch’s message is brief. The theology is straightforward and sound. I have no idea whether the Warsaw Conference (which has drawn over ten thousand attendees) will achieve anything that will promote the welfare of the environment; I tend to be skeptical about things like that, but I do not have enough information about their work or goals to comment intelligently on it.

I suppose if I were to offer any thought about His All-Holiness’s message it would be ask how prudent it is to base remarks on environmental issues that are not yet settled. For example, the Patriarch begins his message, “This week – even as the world mourns the tragic loss of life in the unprecedented Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine Islands – political leaders have converged on Warsaw, Poland, in yet another anticipated meeting on climate change.” I think His All-Holiness is making a tacit claim—that others have made explicitly—that the typhoon that struck the Philippines was especially large because of climate change. Because some have made this claim, others have countered it, and reports from scientists, citing data, are appearing in the press and online to support or deny the claim. I have seen a few of these and I have not even been looking for them, so persons interested in the question can find them easily enough for themselves.

I raise the question of prudence only because if we ground our statements on the claims of others that, on closer inspection or better data, turn  out to be false, we risk undermining our moral witness. And I would hate to see undermined the moral witness of the Ecumenical Patriarch, or anyone else who speaks for the Church.

If you have any thoughts or comments on the Patriarch’s message, I would like to hear from you, and I invite your comments.

1 Comment

  1. I had the same thought about the Patriarch’s statement. Patriarch Kirill sent a letter of condolence to the president of the Philippines; Pope Francis sent a letter of condolence and $150,000 in aid. His All Holiness, on the other hand, appears to be co-opting a natural disaster that has claimed over 10,000 lives to make a political statement. People are being faced with the most cruel loss and his response is that we all need to care more about climate change. I think people should care more about climate change, but hurting people need prayer and support, not politics. He has a right to make a statement about the Warsaw conference, of course, but he is still yet to offer his condolences to the people of the Philippines, unless one counts that recent message….

    I don’t question his integrity, but I agree that it seems imprudent. I, for one, was disappointed.

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