The first environmental prayer day was instituted by the late Patriarch Demetrios I in 1989. Since then, every first day of September has been designated a day of prayer for the protection of the environment throughout the Orthodox world.
"The Orthodox Church has a long-standing commitment to healing the environment and Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I marked this concern by emphasizing the need for all of us to exhibit a ‘eucharistic and ascetic spirit,' through a Day of Prayer," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, National Council of Churches General Secretary.
"The survival of God's Creation and God's children hinges on our ability to embrace the very tenets that Patriarch Demetrios put forth in his first address in 1989," Kinnamon said.
Patriarch Demetrios I served as Ecumenical Patriarch from 1972 to 1991. His successor, Patriarch Bartholomew I, has continued the church's emphasis on protecting the environment.
"Let us pray for God's blessing on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, so that the industrially developed countries may co-operate with developing countries in reducing harmful polluting emissions, that there may exist the will to raise and manage wisely the funds required for the necessary measures, and that all may work together to ensure that our children enjoy the goods of the earth that we leave behind for them," Patriarch Bartholomew I wrote in an encyclical in Monday.
Demetrios, Archbishop of America, enjoys the outdoors on a visit to Camp St. Paul. July 2009. (Photo courtesy Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
"Human progress is not just the accumulation of wealth and the thoughtless consumption of the earth's resources," wrote the Patriarch.
Demetrios, Archbishop of America, wrote in a separate encyclical to mark the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year on September 1, "Our natural environment calls us to be in communion with God and with others. God brought the natural world into existence out of nothingness and He then created humankind within the natural environment for a harmonious coexistence and fellowship."
"Our natural environment is also dependent upon our faith inspired work as a people, specifically as stewards of what God has created," wrote the Archbishop. "We have been called to oversee and protect the natural environment. This requires cooperation with others in a spirit of love and fellowhsip."
Kinnamon expressed the hope that persons of all faiths will add their own prayers for the protection of the environment on Tuesday and each succeeding September 1.
The National Council of Churches is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches representing 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
The Council's Eco-Justice program works to raise awareness in the churches and in the public at large about the urgent need to protect the environment through conservation of resources and action against climate change and global warming.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.