Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew sprinkles Holy Water over the Mississippi River. Photo by GANP/Dimitris Panagos from Ecumenical Patriarchate via Flickr.
A 69-year-old man with a long white beard and big black robes may seem like an unlikely role model for teenagers, but Greek Orthodox youth in the United States apparently found Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's message on the environment "pretty cool."In conjunction with the religious leader's recent two-week visit to the United States, the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Greek Orthodox youth around the country gathered at their churches to watch a new video about the man who has been dubbed the "Green Patriarch." The visit, the paper says, was part of Bartholomew's ongoing work bringing together
scientists, environmentalists, religious leaders and policymakers to work on what he sees as an impending ecological disaster. The film follows him on his trips to the most ecologically threatened areas of the planet -- from Brazil's rain forests to the Baltic Sea, where the fish population has been severely depleted, to Greenland's melting glaciers.
Polluting the Earth is a Sin
Such environmental devastation, Bartholomew doesn't hesitate in declaring, is a sin: "For human beings to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation, to contaminate the Earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life -- all of these are sins."
"He is pretty cool," said Michael Zoumudakis, one of the teenagers interviewed by the Tribune. "I like how he walks instead of taking cars all the time."
The worldwide leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Bartholomew is based in Istanbul, the capital of the faith since the fourth century, but home these days to very few Christians, who face increasing difficulties in practicing their religion. So the patriarch must look further afield to have a real influence, even if all that globe-trotting isn't very environmentally friendly.
Green Patriarch on Facebook and YouTube
Bartholomew has given environmental speeches to the European Parliament in Brussels and to attendees at a New Orleans conference on the health of the Mississippi River; convened a series of symposiums on the fate of rivers and seas, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and supported an annual "day of the prayer for the environment." He's even got a YouTube channel and a Facebook page devoted to his environmental initiatives, and tips for "greening your parish" on the official patriarchate website, where visitors can also watch the entire "Green Patriarch" film.
"The environment unites us in ways that transcend religious and philosophical differences as well as political and cultural differences. Paradoxically, the more we harm the environment, the more the environment proves that we are all connected," Bartholomew said in a recent speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "We can no longer ignore the connections in our hearts between the political and the personal; the survival of our planet depends largely on how we translate traditional faith into personal values and, by extension, into political action."
More about religion and the environment:
When Religion is Good for the Planet
Evangelicals Pray For Climate Bill Deliverance
Will 'Green Religion' Save Us or Sink Us?
Enlightened Mosques Switch to Energy-Saving Lights
Churches and Synagogues Worship Green Building
Palm Sunday & Global Demand for Xaté Threatens Belize's Forests
Understanding the Sacred Value of Water: Day 5 at the World Water Forum