For the first time, the Holy Father, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby launched a joint call for environmental sustainability, the fight against poverty and international cooperation calling on world leaders to stand up for themselves. meet in Glasgow for Cop 26. in November, to make conscious choices for the future of our planet and its inhabitants. The following is the English text of the joint message which was published on Tuesday, September 7, to coincide with the Season of Creation (September 1-October 4).
Common message for the protection of creation
For more than a year, we have all suffered the devastating effects of a global pandemic, all of us, poor or rich, weak or strong. Some were more protected or vulnerable than others, but the rapidly spreading infection meant we depended on each other in our efforts to stay safe. We realized that in the face of this global calamity, no one is safe until everyone is safe, that our actions really affect each other, and what we do today affects this. that will happen tomorrow.
These are not new lessons, but we had to face them again. May we not waste this moment. We have to decide what kind of world we want to leave for future generations. God commands: “Choose life so that you and your children may live” (Dt 30,19). We must choose to live differently; we have to choose life.
September is celebrated by many Christians as the season of creation, a time to pray and care for God’s creation. As world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow in November to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and reflect on the choices we all need to make. Accordingly, as leaders of our churches, we call on everyone, regardless of belief or worldview, to strive to listen to the cry of the earth and of the poor, examining their behavior and promising actions. significant sacrifices for the good of the land which God has given us.
The importance of sustainability
In our common Christian tradition, the scriptures and the Saints offer illuminating perspectives for understanding both the realities of the present and the promise of something greater than what we see now. The concept of stewardship – of individual and collective responsibility for our divine endowment – presents a vital starting point for social, economic and environmental sustainability. In the New Testament we read the story of the rich and foolish man who stores up a great wealth of grain while forgetting his limited end (Lk 12.13-21). We learn that the prodigal son takes his inheritance early, only to waste it and end up being 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 take a broader perspective and recognize our place in the larger history of humanity.
But we have taken the opposite direction. We have maximized our own interests at the expense of future generations. As we focus on our wealth, we find that long-term assets, including nature’s bounty, are depleted for short-term benefit. Technology has opened up new possibilities for progress but also for the accumulation of unlimited wealth, and many of us behave with little regard for others or the limits of the planet. Nature is resistant, but delicate. We are already witnessing the consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve it (Gn 2:15). Now, at this time, we have the opportunity to repent, to turn around with determination, to go in the opposite direction. We must seek generosity and fairness in the ways we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.
The impact on people living with poverty
The current climate crisis says a lot about who we are and how we view and deal with God’s creation. We are facing harsh justice: loss of biodiversity, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, because we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can support. But we also face a profound injustice: the people who suffer the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and are the least responsible for them. We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates each person in the image of God, but also hears the cry of the poor. As a result, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.
Today we are paying the price. The extreme weather conditions and natural disasters of the past few months have once again revealed to us with great force and at great human cost that climate change is not just a future challenge, but a matter of immediate and urgent survival. . Widespread floods, fires and droughts threaten entire continents. Sea levels are rising, forcing entire communities to relocate; cyclones devastate entire regions, destroying lives and livelihoods. Water has become scarce and food supplies precarious, causing conflict and displacement for millions of people. We have seen it before in places where people depend on small farms. Today we see it in more industrialized countries where even sophisticated infrastructure cannot completely prevent extraordinary destruction.
Tomorrow could be worse. Children and adolescents today will face catastrophic consequences unless we take responsibility now, as “fellow workers with God” (Gen 2: 4-7), to sustain our world. We frequently hear from young people who understand that their future is threatened. For their sake, we must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest, and live differently, thinking not only about immediate interests and gains, but future profits as well. We repent of the sins of our generation. We stand alongside our young sisters and brothers around the world in committed prayer and dedicated action for a future that increasingly corresponds to the promises of God.
The cooperation imperative
During the pandemic, we have learned how vulnerable we are. Our social systems have crumbled and we have discovered that we cannot control everything. We need to recognize that the ways we use money and organize our societies have not benefited everyone. We find ourselves weak and anxious, overwhelmed by a series of crises; health, environmental, food, economic and social, which are all deeply interconnected.
These crises offer us a choice. We are in a unique position either to face it with myopia and profiteering, or to seize it as an opportunity for conversion and transformation. If we see humanity as one family and work together towards a future based on the common good, we might find ourselves living in a very different world. Together, we can share a vision of life where everyone thrives. Together, we can choose to act with love, justice and mercy. Together, we can walk towards a more just and fulfilling society with the most vulnerable at the center.
But that does involve making changes. Each of us, individually, must take responsibility for how we use our resources. This path requires ever closer collaboration between all the churches in their commitment to care for creation. Together, as communities, churches, cities and nations, we need to change course and discover new ways of working together to break down traditional barriers between people, stop competing for resources and start collaborating.
To those with broader responsibilities – running administrations, running businesses, employing people or investing funds – we say: choose people – profits focused on human ; make short-term sacrifices to safeguard all of our futures; become leaders in the transition to just and sustainable economies. “To whom we give a lot, we need a lot. (Luke 12:48)
This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to jointly address 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 hearts and minds of every Christian, every believer and every person of good will. We pray for our leaders who will meet in Glasgow to decide the future of our planet and its people. Once again, we recall the Scriptures: “choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Dt 30:19). Choosing life means making sacrifices and showing restraint.
All of us, whoever and wherever we are, can play a role in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation.
Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual mission that requires a committed response. This is a critical moment. The future of our children and the future of our common home depend on it.
September 1, 2021