"An essential element of
caretaking is compassion. To be cared for by God and to care for God’s creation entail
showing compassion for every living being and for every living thing. A
compassionate heart, writes a seventh-century mystic, St. Isaac the
Syrian: "Burns with love for the whole of creation – for human
beings, for birds and beasts, for all of God’s creatures."
"So we need to be compassionate,
which is to say full of passion and full of concern for every detail of
God’s creation. If we remain indifferent to humanity’s injustice against
the earth and its resources, if we are not involved in the correction of
the abuse we cause to our planet, then we do not properly reflect God’s
care and concern for us and the whole world.
"Moreover, receiving care obliges
us to provide care. Caretaking is a circle: of what we have received, we
are called to give. We cannot hope to be nurtured for by the environment
if we do not in turn nurture this environment in an intimate way.
"Therefore, in addition to the
element of compassion, we must recognize the importance of community. Far
too long have we limited our understanding of community, reducing it to
include only human beings. It is time that we extend this notion also to
include the living environment, to animals and to trees, to birds and to
fishes. Embracing in compassion all people as well as all of animal and
inanimate creation brings good news and fervent hope to the whole world.
"This sense of community obliges
us to stand for and support the most vulnerable aspects of creation, those
parts of the world that have no human voice and whose rights can easily be
Archbishop of Constantinople,
New Rome & Ecumenical Patriarch.
Condensed from his address to the Caretakers of the Environment
International Conference, 30 June 2004.
Photograph: Sitting along the Stour River on a peaceful Sunday afternoon
by David Anderson (United
Kingdom). Freshwater stream communities are currently some of the most
threatened ecosystems on our planet.