Joint statement of the three on ecology: what or whom are we saving?

The heads of the Anglicans, Catholics and Phanar addressed humanity. Photo: UOJ

Pope Francis, Pat. Bartholomew and Abp Justin Welby as leaders of Christianity made a joint statement. What are they calling for, why are these calls interesting to us?

Three religious leaders, positioning themselves as leaders of the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches, published a document in which they appealed to the whole world to save nature. What conclusions can be drawn from the very fact of the appearance of this message, as well as its content?

The statement comes out before the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. The conference promises to be representative – as expected, it will be attended by delegations from 196 countries, as well as business representatives and climate experts. Such large-scale climate summits have not been held since 2015. At the summit in Glasgow, it is planned to make very conceptual decisions that will affect not only the economies of the countries of the world but also their social sphere, domestic and foreign policy. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK hosting the summit, said: "At the COP26 Summit in Glasgow this November, we need all other countries to follow the UK lead and commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by mid-century."

Translated into understandable language, this means that countries that cannot provide this (and there will be an absolute majority) will be subject to various sanctions and ultimately lose their sovereignty, or rather its remnants. In the very near future, goods in the production of which there will be the so-called "carbon footprint" will be subject to increased duties. Such a policy will further kill the economies of those countries that will not be able to invest huge amounts of money in the so-called "green economy". And this is not to mention the fact that only the powerful of this world will determine who has a green economy and who has a “dirty” one. Without going deeply into the topic of how the anthropogenic factor affects climate change, let's just say that the methods by which it is proposed to preserve the ecology (with an unconditional need to preserve nature) unambiguously lead to increased globalization and the concentration of all power in the world in the hands of a small group of people. And anyone who is familiar with the book “The Apocalypse” perfectly understands what these processes are leading to. It is hardly possible to prevent them, but every political or religious leader can decide whether he/she will participate in them or not. The Phanar, Vatican and Anglican leaders decided to participate.

The methods by which it is proposed to preserve the ecology unambiguously lead to increased globalization and the concentration of all power in the world in the hands of a small group of people. And anyone who is familiar with the book “The Apocalypse” perfectly understands what these processes are leading to.

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholics, Archbishop Welby – of the Anglican, and whose head is Patriarch Bartholomew?

Looking at the composition of the authors of the message, it is logical to ask the question: in what status did each participant sign this message? Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church around the world, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the leader of the Church of England, but what is the status of Patriarch Bartholomew? Formally, he is the head of one of the 14 generally recognized Local Orthodox Churches. But he positions himself as the leader of the entire Orthodox World and it seems that participation in a joint message on an equal basis with those who really are the leaders of their confessions is another way to assert his image of the "Orthodox Pope" in the face of the international community.

It should be noted that the positioning of the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a structure representing the entire Orthodoxy is actively supported by the American political establishment. So, at the inauguration of American President D. Biden on January 21, 21, the White House press service announced that the head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) "will represent Orthodox Christianity and offer prayer on behalf of the faithful of the United States".

What is missing in the message

Before analyzing the message, you should pay attention to what is not in it. It lacks the most important thing – the Gospel understanding of the world, sin and what the efforts of each person and the Church as a whole should be directed to. Christ the Lord gave a universal commandment to solve all problems for all time: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all this will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). If a person, society and humanity as a whole begin to seek the Kingdom of God, all other problems: financial, social, economic and any others are solved in a natural way, as if by themselves. If we first start trying to solve these earthly everyday problems and leave the Kingdom of God outside the brackets, then we lose the Kingdom, and our problems remain solved. This is confirmed by the entire history of mankind.

And it would seem that the leaders of religious organizations calling themselves Christian should in their message just call on people to return to God, to testify about Christ and that only Christ is the savior of the world, that only He can save a person and through this – the whole universe. But there is nothing of the kind in the message. Nothing is said about the deepest cause of all cataclysms – the sinfulness of man and only the struggle with sin is the only effective way to save both man and nature. Nothing is said about Christ who came to earth and gave His life for the salvation of people. Yes, we can say that the political leaders who will sit at the conference in Glasgow may be representatives of other religions or even non-believers, we can say that the topic of Christ and His saving mission on earth is not in vogue now. But isn't this what Christian leaders should be talking about now? Are the words of the Gospel realized in this case: "... If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38)?

What is in the message

The message consists of a preamble and three small sections. In the preamble, three religious leaders mentioned the coronavirus as a factor that makes humanity think about its own vulnerability and what it can do to protect itself. One of the books of the Old Testament, namely the book of the prophet Jonah, talks about what the inhabitants of Nineveh did to prevent the destruction of their city: “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish" (Jonah 3: 6-9).

And here is what the heads of the Phanar, the Vatican and the Anglican Church propose: “Accordingly, as leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief ana worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and poor people, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth, which God has given us."

Then comes the first section entitled “The Importance of Sustainability”, in which religious leaders describe the paradigm of the current human economy as stealing resources from future generations. This is really a sad fact, and something really needs to be done about it. But for some reason, they cite three Gospel stories as the basis for their reasoning: about an unreasonable rich man (Luke 12: 13-21), about the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32) and about a house built on stone (Matt. 7, 24-27) and argue that "these stories invite us to adopt a broader outlook and recognize our place in the extended history of humanity".

In the patristic tradition, the Gospel stories given in the message have never been understood in the context of man's economy on earth.

However, in the patristic tradition, these Gospel stories have never been understood in the context of man's economy on earth. The parable of the rich man who harvested such a large crop that he did not fit into his bins is understood in the message as a criticism of overproduction when more goods are produced than needed for consumption. The Gospel speaks of the unmercifulness of the rich man and his trust in the wealth collected. “The blind rich man did not think about God, about eternity, about his poor brethren; he thought only of himself, a thought disastrous for himself, because he had forgotten about the purpose of the soul and destined for it, in his dream, an endless enslavement to the body” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov).

The meaning of the parable of the prodigal son, according to the message, is understood as regret over the wasted father's estate. In the Gospel itself, the emphasis on this moment was put by the eldest son, who was not at all happy about the return of his brother. The father, by whom God is meant, devotes all his attention to the returned son. The son is important to him, and not the property that he squandered. The parable of the prodigal son is a parable of repentance, it is not for nothing that it is read in one of the preparatory weeks for Great Lent. But three religious leaders understand it differently. “We learn of the prodigal son who takes his inheritance early only to squanders it and end up hungry,” the message says.

And finally, the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount about building a house on stone are understood like this: “We are cautioned against adopting short-term and seemingly inexpensive options for building on sand, instead of building on the rock for our common home to withstand storms." No, the Savior warns us not about “adopting short-term options” but that for the salvation of the soul it is not enough just to listen to the words of Christ; they should be fulfilled: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock….” (Matt. 7:24). “What is a house not made by human hands? It is the souls of believers and lovers of the Lord. For it is erected by the wise Builder Jesus Christ, (based) on stone, on the Lord Himself, on His life-giving Word, on God's Power, on the Holy Spirit” (St. Macarius the Great).

The second section of the message is entitled “The Impact on People Living in Poverty” and boils down to the fact that negative climate change hits the poorest countries hardest. “But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsibility for causing them,” the message reads. It also says that our generation actually lives in debt to the next generations. This is true, but what is the recipe for this suggested by the three religious leaders? Maybe, this is repentance and turning to God? Maybe, this is a refusal to promote LGBT people, freedom of abortion and euthanasia and a return to traditional morality? Maybe, this is a struggle with passions according to patristic teaching? Nothing like this! It is proposed to strike a balance between short-term and long-term benefits: “We frequently hear from young people who understand that their future is at stake. For their sake, we must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits."

If the first two sections could be called the motivational part, then the third last section is the resolute part or a call to action. It's entitled “The Imperative for Cooperation”. The quintessence of this section can be cited as follows: “Each of us, individually, must take responsibility for how we use our resources. This path requires an ever-closer collaboration among all Churches in their commitment to care for creation. Together, as communities, Churches, cities and nations, we must change route and discover new ways of working together to break down the traditional barriers between peoples, to stop competing for resources and start collaborating.”

It is particularly noteworthy that the responsibility for the use of resources is seen as a task of the Church. Well, since there are no other tasks indicated in the message, it may seem that taking care of resources is understood as Her main goal. But between this understanding and Christ’s words about the task of the Church there is just a huge gap: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And, surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28: 19,20).

At the end of their appeal, the three religious leaders note that their joint message is an example of uniting the efforts of the denominations they represent. In other words, this is another example of ecumenism in action.

“This is the first time the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact of persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation. Together, on behalf of our communities, we appeal to the heart and mind of every Christian, every believer, and every person of good will,” the text says.


Summing up the analysis of this message, we can state the following:

  • firstly, the idea of saving man is being replaced by the idea of saving the environment, combating climate change and caring for the earthly life of future generations;
  • secondly, the quotes from Holy Scripture cited in the message are interpreted in a completely different way than the Holy Fathers and the Church as a whole understood them;
  • thirdly, the message itself is positioned as another step on the path of ecumenism;
  • fourthly, finding himself in the company of the two heads of religious confessions, Patriarch Bartholomew positions himself as such a head.

The text of the letter testifies that its authors have gone far from the Gospel understanding of the mission of the Church on earth. And if Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby are representatives of religious organizations that have broken away from the Church of Christ, and their position does not cause much surprise, Patriarch Bartholomew continues to name himself Orthodox. And his participation in this message may not be surprising but still very sad.

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