Faith Seen as Giving Meaning to Protection of Environment

Closing of Symposium Organized by Bartholomew I of Constantinople

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VENICE, Italy, JUNE 11, 2002 ( Faith in God gives full meaning to environmentalism, Catholic Patriarch Angelo Scola of Venice said at the closing of an ecological symposium organized by the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople.

Addressing the symposium “Religion, Science, and the Environment,” held from June 5-10 on a cruiser in the Adriatic Sea, Patriarch Scola urged overcoming the “myopic point of view” of the “prevailing culture.”

“On the one hand it reduces everything that can be known to that which is empirically measurable, and on the other it tends to make it coincide with the ´technically´ possible,” the patriarch told the meeting Monday in the Ducal Palace.

During the same session, John Paul II and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople signed a joint declaration on the environment. The Pope participated via a satellite connection from the Vatican.

Patriarch Scola emphasized that creeds can play a decisive role in counteracting the “myopic” tendency, which does not consider the environment as “man´s dwelling” but “simply as the object of every possible manipulation.”

The threats looming over the environment today are “human arrogance and the lack of ability to organize a coherent defense of the ecosystems,” he continued.

In addressing environmental problems, the speaker said that man “is destined to interact with the cosmos,” which is mistakenly considered as “extrinsic” to life and to people.

“On the contrary, it is space that has been lived in and time that has been experienced because, insofar as it is a prolongation of the personal and social body, it becomes the expression of every society. History is portrayed in the environment, a history made up of the intertwining of the personal communal experiences of men and women, individuals who are generators of civilization, art and culture,” Patriarch Scola continued.

In this context, the patriarch highlighted the role of religions as builders of civilization. He acknowledged, however, that, after the September terrorist attacks, religions were sometimes seen as “stumbling blocks.”

“Following the terrible attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many have invited the men of religions to put their faith in parentheses, suspected of being one of the principal causes of this clash of civilizations, which seems to threaten the dawn of the third millennium.”

On the contrary, he contended, the symposium shows “that, to the degree that they avoid any ideological deviation, far from being a stumbling block, religions are precise resources for the construction of civilizations in reciprocal dialogue.”

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