His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, speaking at the Halki Summit III in Istanbul, reflected that all of us are called to serve as priests of God’s creation. The summit held on 1-3 June, 2019 convened distinguished representatives of Orthodox theological schools and seminaries from all over the world, and focused on the theme of “Theological Formation and Ecological Awareness.” Some 50 delegates from over 40 institutions were in attendance.
In a keynote address on 1 June, the Ecumenical Patriarch said that, in light of the ecological crisis, the gathering provides a platform for conversation and promotes an atmosphere of dialogue to discern and foster changes in attitudes and lifestyles.
“Even recently, United Nations scientists once again warned the world about the unparalleled deterioration of our ecosystems, the unprecedented degradation of our rainforests, and the unalterable destruction of our coral reefs,” said the head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. “Moreover, all of these predicaments are unquestionably and irreversibly generated by human growth and greed.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch pointed out that, as early as 1989, people were first becoming aware of the challenge of climate change and pollution. “Permit us to propose that the reason for such hesitation and hindrance may lie in the fact that we are unwilling to accept personal responsibility and demonstrate personal sacrifice,” he said. “We have failed to grasp how integrally we are interconnected with the rest of God’s creation, how responsible we are for the protection of our planet, and how critical our choices and actions are for the sustainability of our children’s future.”
Theological schools and religious seminaries are the appropriate setting and venue for sowing the necessary seeds to educate and motivate aspiring parish clergy and community leaders, continued the Ecumenical Patriarch.
“We may all agree that churches and religions have a fundamental responsibility and role to play in advancing ecological learning and advocating climate justice,” he said. “Therefore, theological schools and seminaries should be at the forefront of this effort as well.”
We are called to receive the diversity of God’s gifts in a spirit of thanksgiving and offer them back to God, he concluded. “And if all believers are members of a chosen race and the royal priesthood in Christ, then all of us are called to serve as priests of God’s creation,” he said. “In this respect, we must acknowledge the importance of our schools and seminaries in the sacred process of molding ministers and producing pastors, who are sensitive and attuned to the presence of God in every detail of the universe.”