Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch promote protecting environment

On Sunday, the Holy Father prayed for God's assistance in protecting the earth for future generations. Both he and Patriarch Bartholomew I have made statements concerning the environment as the "Day for the Protection of the Environment" approaches.

The Orthodox Church-created and Italian Bishops' Conference-promoted event takes place on Sept. 1 under the theme "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation." The same theme was used by Benedict XVI for the World Day for Peace.

After Sunday's Angelus, Pope Benedict commented on the "day," which he noted is also an important moment for ecumenical relations. "Indeed," he said, "we have the duty to hand the earth on to future generations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and subsequently conserve it.

"May the Lord help us in this task!" prayed the Pope.

Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, referred to by some as the "Green Patriarch," has issued an official statement for the celebration. His predecessor, Patriarch Demetrios, originally established the start of the Orthodox liturgical year, Sept. 1, as a day of prayer for the protection of the environment.

Explaining that in today's world, economic and social stability are very closely attached to environmental conditions, he announced that there is a "dire need in our day for a combination of societal sanctions and political initiatives, such that there is a powerful change in direction, to a path of viable and sustainable environmental development."

Pope Benedict XVI has also taught extensively on the relationship of these elements, dedicating a significant portion of his encyclical "Caritas in veritate" to the theme. In that encyclical, he wrote that "one of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use - not abuse - of natural resources … " The Pontiff also exhorted the Church to assert its "responsibility towards creation" in the public sphere.

The Italian bishops' conference initiative will be observed with an ecumenical pilgrimage, which will traverse along a route called the "Path of Creation." The path will take pilgrims through a canyon in the Italian Alps.

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