We, the participants at the Fifth Halki Summit entitled “Sustaining the Future of the Planet Together” – an international and interdisciplinary conference co-organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Sophia University Institute, inspired by the prophetic magisterium of Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis – wish to appeal to our Churches and to all those who care about our common home:
The sincere communication and mutual attentiveness, as well as the open exchange of ecclesial approaches and reflections experienced throughout our summit (June 8–11, 2022), have led us to discover that we are at a decisive turning point for the future of the human family, in which our Churches are called to play an essential educational role through the “Global Compact on Education.”
The challenge or opportunity to which we are called is that of developing a shared ecological ethos. As artisans of peace and fraternity, we seek to implement good practices, committing ourselves to work on interdisciplinary pathways for the formation of new paradigms that can interpret and transform reality. In this way, we aspire to overcome the culture of waste, knowing that what we do to our world “we also do to the least of our brothers and sisters” (Mt 25.40).
Therefore, with conviction and gratitude we embrace the exhortation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: “Always remember that our vocation as Christians is about making and reinforcing connections between ourselves and all of God’s creation, between our faith and our action, between our theology and our spirituality, between what we say and what we do, between science and religion, between our beliefs and every discipline, between our sacramental communion and our social consciousness, between our generation and the generations to come, just as between heaven and earth, between our two churches, but also with other churches and other faith communities.”
Introductory Remarks by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis
Halki Summit V
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Your Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio,
Reverend members of the Focolare Movement,
Honored faculty and students from Sophia University Institute,
Distinguished guests, speakers and participants,
It is a very special privilege for me to welcome all of you on behalf of our spiritual father and ecumenical patriarch to the Fifth Halki Summit, our first gathering after the period of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. With the grace of God, we are able to be here in person, to connect with one another and to address vital issues that affect our communities, our churches, and our world. Our esteemed and beloved cosponsor for this summit is the Sophia University Institute. I would be remiss if I did not also mention my own archbishop, His Eminence Elpidophoros, who graciously and generously supported this event.
This particular summit is unique inasmuch as it brings together (at least primarily) Orthodox and Catholics to reflect on the ecological inspiration and initiatives of our respective global religious leaders, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis. Not only are we blessed that these two bishops share a close relationship with one another, but we are also fortunate that they share the same concerns and the same goals for their congregations. Above all, both of them share the conviction that the followers of Christ must be in communion with one another and that they must together face the challenges of our time.
To this end, from the very beginning of Pope Francis’ ministry, when Patriarch Bartholomew attended his installation mass in Rome, they have visited one another in Rome and Constantinople, they have jointly visited places such as Jerusalem (to commemorate the visit to the Holy Land by their predecessors Athenagoras and Paul VI), Lesvos (to bring attention to suffering refugees), and Cairo (to advocate against religious persecution and for religious freedom). In addition, they have issued joint statements on protection of the environment and for peace in the world.
There are many reasons for us to recall and observe this close friendship between our spiritual leaders. In fact, just a few days ago, our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters commemorated the Feast of Pentecost, highlighting the descent of the Holy Spirit that realizes the presence of God in all creation. Moreover, over the next few days, we are celebrating your own name-day, Your All-Holiness, when we will commemorate your patron
Saint, the apostle Bartholomew. They say that green is the color of God’s divine Spirit; and of course green is the title that you have earned with your environmental leadership.
Nevertheless, Your All-Holiness, this summit is not only a manifestation of your fraternal collaboration with Pope Francis. It is also a reflection of the way you have understood how we must address the ecological crisis from the very outset of your own ministry. In raising awareness about climate change, while above all proclaiming the need for us to change our attitudes and actions toward the rest of God’s creation, you have always stressed the importance for our approach to be collaborative, collective, and communal. This is why you emphasize that the environmental initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate—its symposia, summits and seminars—must be inter-religious and inter-disciplinary.
Well, this meeting is precisely a tribute to your vision, conviction, and commitment. Just look, Your All-Holiness, at those who are gathered here around you this evening, those who have dedicated their time and love to travel to the Phanar and to Halki to deliberate on the subject dearest to your heart over the last thirty years and more. They have come from literally every discipline, background and nation (representing the United States of America, Western Europe, Great Britain and the Middle East, as well as Africa, Asia and South America). As speakers and participants, moderators and organizers, they include:
Clergy and laity
Monks and nuns
Men and women
Teachers and students
Authors, editors, and interpreters
Administrators and consultants
Political economists and political scientists
Business specialists and bioethicists
Theologians and philosophers
Educationalists and ecumenists
Legal scholars and canon lawyers
Ecologists and scientists
Environmental, chemical and industrial engineers
Musicians and composers
Physicists, dentists, and pharmacists
Sociologists and social anthropologists
Policy advisors and landscape architects
Classicists, orientalists, and islamicists
Psychologists and neuropsychologists
This means that, what you have dreamed of and worked for throughout your ministry, is materialized before your eyes. We are all here to learn from what you and your brother Francis have inspired and taught us. And we all are here in common, all here in conversation. Allow me to remind everyone that the English term “conversation” implies “leaning in toward one another” in order to pay close attention, in order to listen carefully. Just as the Greek equivalent for conversation “συζήτησις“ implies that we are together on a search for the same goal: to reflect on the ecological inspiration and initiatives of our respective global religious leaders.
Before handing over to my co-chair, I want to underline that it has been a great joy for me and my colleagues (Nicholas Anton and Niki Devaris) to work closely with my dear friend on the organizing committee, Angela Caliaro, representing the family of the Sophia University Institute of the Focolare Movement, which was started almost eighty years ago to support and advance Christian unity. Your All-Holiness, this collaboration is a direct reflection of the close relationship established between your predecessor and mentor, Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, and the founder of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich. This collaboration and relationship has been reinforced by Your All-Holiness and Maria Voce, former president of the Focolare Movement. And today, you have extended this partnership by meeting for the very first time with the third and most recent president of the Focolare, Margaret Karram, whom we are honored to welcome among our very distinguished guests this evening.
Again, it is a joy and privilege to be together in person to explore our common commitment to the environment and celebrate the name-day of His All Holiness. Thank you for making the trip in these challenging times.
And now, I will turn the program over to my co-chair, Angela, who is well known to all of us from her time here in Turkey, from her work for the Athenagoras–Lubich Chair at Sophia University Institute, and from her many years since her youth with the Focolare Movement.
Keynote Address by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Halki Summit V
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Most reverend hierarchs and religious leaders,
Distinguished diplomats and dignitaries,
Dearest summit speakers and participants,
It is a joy for us to welcome you all to the “queen of cities” for the fifth Halki Summit of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which this year is jointly organized and sponsored by our beloved Sisters of the Focolare Movement and specifically its Sophia University Institute.
It is indeed a privilege to address the theme of our gathering about “sustaining the future of the planet together” with an educational and religious school that features a unique ecumenical chair dedicated to our venerable predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and the charitable founder of the Focolare Chiara Lubich. Both of these visionaries of our respective churches established invaluable ecumenical relations, which have only been strengthened and sealed over the past years. Today we are honored to have among us the current president of the Focolare Movement and Vice Chancellor of Sophia University Institute as well as its Rector, Professor Giuseppe Argiolas. Thank you for gracing us with your presence and participation.
The focus of this summit is the comparative study of the ecological teachings and programs initiated – separately and in common – by our beloved brother Pope Francis in the Roman Catholic Church and our modesty in the Orthodox Church. For this reason it is indeed a gift to have among us the recently-appointed Nuncio, Archbishop XXX, who has made the presence of His Holiness at our humble summit very palpable through his personal message. We are deeply grateful for the voice of Pope Francis and the presence of the archbishop.
And like all of our initiatives – whether educational seminars, large-scale symposia, or these more concentrated summits – we have once again sought to include international, interdisciplinary, and ecumenical speakers and participants. This is because we are convinced that only together can we properly respond to and productively resolve the ecological crisis that humankind faces and the vital challenge to protect God’s creation in our time. In this light, we would like to emphasize two key words in the title of our theme: namely “future” and “together.”
Many of our speakers are educators who are committed to raising awareness and communicating knowledge to young people in our communities. This mission demonstrates the inseparable connection between our own generation and the generation of our children. We are responsible for the damage that we cause in our world. We are responsible for leaving behind a world that is sustainable for the future. We are responsible for shaping a world that our children can receive, respect and transmit to their own children. And unfortunately it is true that we are the first generation that may leave behind a world that is worse shape than the world we inherited. That is why the word “future” is critical.
The second word that we would underline is “together.” It has become increasingly clear to us over the last decades – since the Ecumenical Patriarchate has emphasized that creation care is part and parcel of our vocation as Christians and our responsibility as human beings – that no single science or discipline, no single institution or individual, no single nation or organization, but also no single confession or religion can potentially appreciate the diverse perspectives or possibly address the various repercussions of the ecological crisis. This means that we cannot point fingers at any single cause, but we are obliged to hold hands in order together to assume responsibility for leaving the lightest footprint and bequeathing the least damage on the gift of creation.
In the “symbol of faith” shared by our “sister churches” – what our two churches both recognize and respect as the Nicaean Creed – we profess “one God, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” This is a joint confession that we will celebrate together in just a few years, as we commemorate the 1700th anniversary since the convocation of that historical First Ecumenical Council that convened not very far from here. So beyond the scriptural teaching about our creator God who fashioned the world out of love and out of nothing, Christianity traditionally and doctrinally holds that all of creation is an inseparable part of our sacred identity and divine destiny.
By extension, then, every human action leaves a lasting imprint on the body of the earth. Human attitudes and behavior toward creation directly impact on and reflect human attitudes and behavior toward other people as well as human conceptions about God. Ecology cannot be understood without reference to theology, just as it cannot be understood without reference to economy. At stake with the ecological crisis is not just our ability to live in a sustainable way, but our survival and our faith in God. Therefore, it becomes abundantly clear that only a cooperative and collective response – by religious leaders, informed scientists, political authorities, educational institutions, and financial organizations – will effectively be able to address these vital issues of our time.
At this point, we would like to remind you of two other concepts from Orthodox theology and spirituality that we have repeatedly emphasized in our effort to discern ways of promoting environmental awareness and action. The first of these words is “eucharist.” In calling for a “eucharistic” spirit, the Orthodox Church is reminding us that the created world is not simply our personal possession, but rather it is a sacred gift – a gift from above, a gift of wonder and beauty. The proper response to such a gift is to accept and embrace it with gratitude and thanksgiving. This precludes any attempt at possessing or controlling the planet and its resources as human beings. In this respect, a eucharistic or sacramental worldview is the opposite of the way of selfish and wasteful consumption. Humans are called to be eucharistic beings – grateful to the Creator and respectful toward all creation.
The second word is “ascesis.” The ascetic ethos or worldview is the intention and effort to protect the sacred gift of creation. It is the struggle for self-restraint and self-control, whereby we no longer willfully or wastefully consume every fruit, but instead manifest a sense of frugality and abstinence. Both of these attitudes of protection and self-restraint are expressions of love for God, humanity and the natural creation. Only such love can protect the world from inevitable destruction.
However, what we would like to stress to you today is that, when we speak of eucharist and ascesis, we conventionally think of the ritual of liturgy and the way of monasticism. We would like to encourage you to think beyond the limited meaning of these terms, which have been burdened with many layers of ceremony and austerity through the centuries. Instead we would inspire you to consider these concepts as different ways of speaking about communion. Of course “eucharist” is much more easily appreciated as a synonym for communion and sharing. But even “ascesis” is misinterpreted when we reduce it to an individualistic exercise. When we abstain from certain foods or luxuries or desires, we are conscious that our choices affect other people. We remember those who have are counterbalanced by those who do not have. So even the ascetic worldview is another way of learning to share with other people and the rest of the world.
And here is where the vision of our brother Pope Francis coincides with the worldview we have proposed and promulgated for over thirty years. Both of us are convinced that what we do to our world “we do unto the least of our brothers and sisters” (Mt 25.40), just as what we do unto others we do to God Himself (Mt. 25.45). It is no accident that, immediately after publishing his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, the next encyclical issued by Pope Francis was Fratelli Tutti. And it is not by chance that, after numerous annual encyclicals since 1989 for the protection of the natural environment, the Ecumenical Patriarchate endorsed a document entitled For the Life of the World, which is about the social teaching of the Orthodox Church.
Both the pope and we recognize that the success of all our ecological activities is measured by the way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters, especially the poor. And the effectiveness of our response to the ecological crisis is assessed by the way we confront the social challenges of our world. Moreover, both the pope and we are fully aware that we can only address these issues together and not in isolation. This is why have issued joint statements – along with the Archbishop of Canterbury – on the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on those living with poverty, and the importance of global cooperation.
So this is the paternal exhortation that we leave you with today as a signpost for your discussions over the next few days. Always remember that our vocation as Christians is about making and reinforcing connections:
Connections between ourselves and all of God’s creation
Connections between our faith and our action, between our theology and our spirituality, between what we say and what we do
Connections between science and religion, between our beliefs and every discipline
Connections between our sacramental communion and our social consciousness
Connections between our generation and the generations to come, just as between heaven and earth
Connections between our two churches, but also with other churches and other faith communities
Because whenever we narrow our perception of life to ourselves, we overlook our vocation to transform the whole world. And creation provides a unique opportunity for all of us – normally so divided – to look beyond ourselves in order to address a common challenge and task that we must face together. That is precisely why we collaborate so closely with Pope Francis. And that is the shared service that we pray that you will support, that you will imitate, and that you will advance in your own lives and ministries. May God bless you all.