Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of close to 300 million Orthodox Christian around the world, recently visited Washington, D.C. to speak about environmental issues. The Patriarch met with U.S. leaders to encourage them to push for environmental initiatives.
He has been called the "Green Patriarch" for being an advocate of the environment.
Close to 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world know him as their spiritual leader.
This is Patriarch Bartholomew's first visit to the United States since President Obama took office. Speaking at a Washington policy institute, he urged America's leaders to move boldly and quickly to protect the global environment.
"We can no longer afford to be passive observers in this crucial debate," Patriarch Bartholomew says, "If we are to save our planet sacrifices must be made by all."
Patriarch Bartholomew says how people treat the environment is a reflection of how they treat each other. "We must re-learn the sense of connectedness, for we ultimately be judged by the tenderness with which we respond to human beings and to nature," he said.
His two-week trip to the U.S. included hosting a conference on the environment in New Orleans, a city where signs of economic and environmental devastation from Hurricane Katrina four years ago, still exist.
"How could the most powerful nation on earth appear so powerless in the face of such catastrophe? Certainly not because of a lack of resources? The truth is that we tend somewhat conveniently to forget situations of poverty and suffering," Patriarch Bartholomew said.
During his Washington visit, Patriarch Bartholomew met with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The 69 year old patriarch discussed everything from the environment to health care. He says the two topics are linked. Speaker Pelosi says lawmakers from both parties share his views.
Many of us in congress respond to your leadership and guidance on this subject," Pelosi says, "Many believe, and many of the evangelicals in our country share the belief, that this planet is precious, is God's creation and we have a moral responsibility to preserve it.
Patriarch Bartholomew says there is still time to act, saying he hopes the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December will set the agenda for the future. "It is not too late. God's work has incredible healing powers," he says, "Within a single generation we could steer the earth toward our children's future. Let that generation start now."
Patriarch Bartholomew says the desire to preserve the future for the next generation should transcend differences in politics and religion.