Patriarch Bartholomew

Patriarch Bartholomew

September 3, 2012

ISTANBUL - Praying for the protection of the environment includes asking God's forgiveness for the ways each individual contributes to pollution, said the Ecumenical Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople.

Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox, issued a message in preparation for the Sept. 1 Day of Prayer for the Environment.

The Sept. 1 observance was begun by Patriarch Bartholomew's predecessor in 1989. Pope Benedict has said it is an important ecumenical initiative.

In his 2012 message, Patriarch Bartholomew said God "created the universe and formed the earth as a perfect dwelling place for humanity."

Praying that God protect his creation is "essentially a petition of repentance for our sinfulness in destroying the world instead of working to preserve and sustain its ever-flourishing resources reasonably and carefully," he said.

"We are ultimately imploring God to change the mindset of the powerful in the world, enlightening them not to destroy the planet's ecosystem for reasons of financial profit" and selfishness.

At the same time, each individual must ask God's forgiveness because "we all generate small ecological damage."

God made the world for human beings, he said, but gave them responsibility to care for it and make it fruitful. That means using it carefully and not exploiting it "out of a sense of greed."

Human abuse of God's creation is threatening human livelihoods and lives, Patriarch Bartholomew wrote.