The Mediterranean Sea, a wonderful sea turned into “a grave for men, women and children”. This was written by Pope Francis in a message to the Patriarch Bartholomew I and the people attending the international Symposium on the protection of the environment that started in Athens yesterday, called “Toward a Greener Attica. Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People”. The Holy See sent there card. John Olorunfermi Onaiyekan, archbishop of Abuja, and card. Peter Turkson, prefect of the Ministry for integral human development, who read the Holy Father’s message.
“I vividly remember my visit to Lesbo, along with His Holiness and His Beatitude Hieronymos II, to express our joint concern for the state of migrants and refugees”, Francis wrote. “Though I was charmed by the view of the blue sky and the sea, I was struck at the thought that such a beautiful sea had turned into a grave for men, women and children, many of whom were only trying to flee the inhuman conditions of their land. There, I could see with my eyes the generosity of the Greek people, so full of human and Christian values, and their efforts, despite the effects of their recession, to comfort those who, dispossessed of all material belongings, had headed for their shores”.
“The tragic contradiction I experienced during my visit – Pope Francis went on – helped me appreciate the importance of the subject of this Symposium. It is not just the homes of the vulnerable people all over the world that are crumbling down, as we can see in the ever expanding flight of climate migrants and environmental refugees. As I pointed out in my Encyclical, Laudato si’, we are also condemning the future generations to live in a crumbling common house”. So, the Pope asks again, “What kind of a world do we want to hand down to those who will come after us, to the children who are growing?”, and above all he asks that, faced with the current ecological crisis, “people search their conscience”. “Care for Creation – the Holy Father pressed on – as a shared gift, not as a private possession, is always a matter of acknowledging the rights of every man, of every population”. It is a crisis that is “deeply rooted in man’s heart” as man “aspires to control and exploit the limited resources of our planet, neglecting the most vulnerable members of the human family”.
Then, the Pope mentioned the Message written with Patriarch Bartholomew for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which is celebrated on September 1st. And he pointed out: “The duty to take care of Creation challenges all men of good will and calls Christians to recognise the spiritual roots of the ecological crisis and to join forces in providing an unambiguous answer. The yearly World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is a step in this direction, as it shows our joint concern and our joint aspiration to join forces and face this awkward problem. I firmly intend for the Church to keep walking with His Holiness and the Ecumenical Patriarchate along this way. Likewise, I hope that Catholic and Orthodox devotees, as well as the devotees of other Christian communities and all the people of good will, may proactively work together and locally, to take care of Creation and for a sustainable, comprehensive development”.