ISTANBUL (CNS) — Praying for the protection of the environment includes asking God’s forgiveness for the small or serious ways each individual contributes to pollution, said the Ecumenical Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople.

, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox and a longtime promoter of Christian ecology, issued a message on the environment Aug. 27 in preparation for the celebration Sept. 1 of the Day of Prayer for the Environment.

The Sept. 1 observance was begun by Patriarch Bartholomew’s predecessor in 1989 and has been adopted by other Christians, including the Catholic Church in Italy. Pope Benedict XVI has said the day of prayer is an important ecumenical initiative.


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

Praying that God protect His creation, therefore, 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,” the patriarch 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, he said.

At the same time, each individual must ask God’s forgiveness because “we all generate small ecological damage in our individual capacity and ignorance. Therefore, in praying for the natural environment, we are praying for personal repentance for our contribution — smaller or greater — to the disfigurement and destruction of creation.”

God made the world for human beings, he said, but gave them responsibility to care for it and make it fruitful, which 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.

“All of us — scientists, as well as religious and political leaders, indeed all people — are witnessing a rise in the atmosphere’s temperature, extreme weather conditions, the pollution of ecosystems both on land and in the sea, and an overall disturbance — sometimes to the point of utter destruction — of the potential for life in some regions of the world,” he said.