Pope Francis has been getting a lot of good press lately. He’s shown himself to be visionary, courageous, and disruptive. In the Christian world at large right now there is a remarkable rapprochement underway between the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, due in no small measure to the pope’s efforts, but also to another religious figure that makes fewer headlines but who has been steadily preaching a gospel of care for the poor and disadvantaged, of our moral responsibility for the way we use natural resources, and of the real linkages between those two concerns. Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Orthodox branch of Christianity, is known as the Green Patriarch because he has traveled and sponsored conferences and symposia to promote ecumenism and environmental stewardship, most recently at his own monastery on an island off the cost of Istanbul. In March of 2013, he attended the inauguration of Pope Francis, the first Orthodox patriarch to attend a papal inauguration since the Great Schism in 1054. The two leaders clearly admire one another and have continued to show signs of solidarity over such issues as care for the poor and the environment. In his own recent landmark encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si‘, for example, Pope Francis, makes particular mention of Patriarch Bartholomew’s environmentalist teachings, and this year the pope has invited his own flock and all people to join the Orthodox faithful in observing today, September 1, as a day of prayer for the care of creation—a tradition that the Orthodox Church has has observed since 1989 and which now the Catholic Church will officially observe as well.
There are also indications within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of increased awareness of the linkages between God’s call to be our brother’s keeper and his command that we be stewards of creation. The Church now has a webpage on environmental stewardship and conservation featuring an important address by Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy in which he offers a doctrinal basis for care for the earth. And just yesterday the Church-owned Deseret News featured an opinion piece by John Hoffmire that again raises the important moral issues that lie where the effects of climate change and the lives of the world’s most socio-economically vulnerable populations intersect. At at time when concern is growing for the health of families across the Church and across the world, the plight of those families and nations who stand to be disproportionately affected by human-induced climate change should be ever more urgently in our thoughts as we make daily choices about how we use the precious, finite resources of this planet.
My hope is that today as Latter-Day Saints we will add our faith to the faith of many others who are praying for greater personal awareness of what is at stake and what we can do individually and collectively to care for our only home and for one another as fellow citizens here.
THE MORMON LECTIONARY PROJECT
Collect (from the Orthodox tradition and adopted today by the Catholic)
We praise and bless you, O Lord, for you are the King of all ages, and through Christ your Son you have made all that is.
In the beginning of the beginning, you breathed upon the waters of creation, and filled the earth with life through your vibrant Spirit.
The heavens declare your glory, O Lord, and the stars of the sky bring light to our darkness.
You spoke, and the earth burst forth in life; you saw that it was good.
You called forth creation, and enlivened every creature on land and sea.
You made human beings in your image, and set us over the whole world in all of its wonders.
You gave us share in your dominion, and called us “to till and to keep” this garden, the work of your hands.
As day gives way to evening, we praise you for your manifold gifts.
May our adoration this night give glory to your name, so that we may serve you with faithfulness and love.
May our daily care for your creation show reverence for your name, and reveal your saving power in every creature under heaven.
We make this prayer in the name of Christ your son, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever.