By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 12, 2009
The spiritual leader of the world’s 300-million Orthodox Christians traveled here to spread his concern about a Christian’s responsibility to the environment.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke at the crowded Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, 2500 Clairmont Road, at an “ecumenical gathering of peace” on Thursday, Oct. 29.
“We are not users but guardians of the creation of our Creator. It is God’s creation, not ours,” said Patriarch Bartholomew.
The patriarch said people are not free to exploit the natural environment, but are called to maintain it and act as a steward “so it reflects God’s handiwork.”
Patriarch Bartholomew has earned the title of the “green patriarch” for his environmental advocacy. Indeed, he was in New Orleans as part of a weeklong symposium convened by the patriarch titled “The Great Mississippi River: Restoring Balance.” He also visited New York and Washington.
As part of the prayer service, Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America read reflections on the Book of Genesis by St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom, exploring environmental themes.
Hymns were sung by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral Choir, Holy Spirit Church Traditional Choir and Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church Voices of Praise.
As patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew is spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox churches worldwide. He last visited the United States in 2006.
During his visit to the Mississippi River, the patriarch evoked the role of faith in responding to an environment devastated by natural disasters and by society’s modern way of life.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to be delivered to symposium attendees expressing his concern for the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina, especially the poor, and for those “engaged in the patient work of rebuilding and renewal.”
Former Vice President Al Gore, who was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental efforts, sent a message congratulating Christians for focusing attention on the issue.
Catholic News Service contributed to this article.