Ecological Irresponsibility Is a Moral Problem, Says Pope

In a Message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

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ROME, JUNE 11, 2003 ( John Paul II warns of the inevitable repercussions suffered «when man turns his back on the Creator’s plan.»

The Pope made that observation in a message sent to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, in the context of the 5th Symposium on the Environment, organized by the Orthodox patriarchate.

The Holy Father’s text, published today by the Vatican press office, was handed to the patriarch by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Focused on the topic «The Baltic Sea: A Common Heritage, A Shared Responsibility,» 250 participants, including scientists, theologians and politicians, attended this itinerant meeting, held on a ship which sailed the Baltic from June 2 to June 8.

The ship started out from Gdansk, Poland, and eventually arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, where the liturgy of Pentecost was celebrated in the city’s Lutheran cathedral. Along the way the ship stopped in Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Helsinki, Finland.

In his message to the patriarch, John Paul II emphasized the importance of understanding the nature of the ecological crisis.

«The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment can never be detached from their relationship with God,» the Pope said.

«Ecological irresponsibility is at heart a moral problem — founded upon an anthropological error — which arises when man forgets that his ability to transform the world must always respect God’s design of creation,» he cautioned.

«That the symposium is taking place aboard a ship which will sail to many of the port towns on the Baltic Sea is itself a powerful reminder that the effects of ecological irresponsibility often transcend the borders of individual nations,» he added.

«Similarly, solutions to this problem will necessarily involve acts of solidarity which transcend political divisions or unnecessarily narrow industrial self-interests,» the Pope continued.

In the ambit of the project «Religion, Science and the Environment,» symposiums like this one have been organized in previous years by the Patriarchate of Constantinople — «first among equals» among the Orthodox Churches — in the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Danube and the Adriatic Sea.

The last symposium, held in June 2002, ended with the Venice Declaration, signed at the same time via satellite connection by John Paul II, who was in the Vatican, and Bartholomew I, who was in Venice.

John Paul II said that «Christians must always be ready to assume in unison their responsibility within the divine design for creation, a responsibility which leads to a vast field of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation.»

In this connection, according to the Holy Father, the solution to the ecological challenges requires more than economic and technological proposals.

«It requires,» he said, «an inner change of heart which leads to the rejection of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production,» as well as «an ethical behavior which respects the principles of universal solidarity, social justice and responsibility.»

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