The text of the joint declaration signed 10 June 2002 by Patriarch
Bartholomeos of Constantinople and Pope John Paul II of Roman Catholic Church on the shared Christian responsibility to
safeguard the environment.
We are gathered here today in the spirit of peace for the good of all human
beings and for the care of creation. At this moment in history, at the
beginning of the third millennium, we are saddened to see the daily suffering
of a great number of people from violence, starvation, poverty, and disease.
We are also concerned about the negative consequences for humanity and for all
creation resulting from the degradation of some basic natural resources such
as water, air and land, brought about by an economic and technological
progress which does not recognize and take into account its limits.
Almighty God envisioned a world of beauty and harmony, and He created it,
making every part an expression of His freedom, wisdom and love (cf. Gen
At the center of the whole of creation, He placed us, human beings, with
our inalienable human dignity. Although we share many features with the rest
of the living beings, Almighty God went further with us and gave us an
immortal soul, the source of self-awareness and freedom, endowments that make
us in His image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-31; 2:7). Marked with that
resemblance, we have been placed by God in the world in order to cooperate
with Him in realizing more and more fully the divine purpose for creation.
At the beginning of history, man and woman sinned by disobeying God and
rejecting His design for creation. Among the results of this first sin was the
destruction of the original harmony of creation. If we examine carefully the
social and environmental crisis which the world community is facing, we must
conclude that we are still betraying the mandate God has given us: to be
stewards called to collaborate with God in watching over creation in holiness
God has not abandoned the world. It is His will that His design and our
hope for it will be realized through our cooperation in restoring its original
harmony. In our own time we are witnessing a growth of an ecological awareness
which needs to be encouraged, so that it will lead to practical programs and
initiatives. An awareness of the relationship between God and humankind brings
a fuller sense of the importance of the relationship between human beings and
the natural environment, which is God's creation and which God entrusted to us
to guard with wisdom and love (cf. Gen 1:28).
Respect for creation stems from respect for human life and dignity. It is
on the basis of our recognition that the world is created by God that we can
discern an objective moral order within which to articulate a code of
environmental ethics. In this perspective, Christians and all other believers
have a specific role to play in proclaiming moral values and in educating
people in ecological awareness, which is none other than responsibility
towards self, towards others, towards creation.
What is required is an act of repentance on our part and a renewed attempt
to view ourselves, one another, and the world around us within the perspective
of the divine design for creation. The problem is not simply economic and
technological; it is moral and spiritual. A solution at the economic and
technological level can be found only if we undergo, in the most radical way,
an inner change of heart, which can lead to a change in lifestyle and of
unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. A genuine conversion in
Christ will enable us to change the way we think and act.
First, we must regain humility and recognize the limits of our powers, and
most importantly, the limits of our knowledge and judgment. We have been
making decisions, taking actions, and assigning values that are leading us
away from the world as it should be, away from the design of God for creation,
away from all that is essential for a healthy planet and a healthy
commonwealth of people. A new approach and a new culture are needed, based on
the centrality of the human person within creation and inspired by
environmentally ethical behavior stemming from our triple relationship to God,
to self, and to creation. Such an ethics fosters interdependence and stresses
the principles of universal solidarity, social justice, and responsibility, in
order to promote a true culture of life.
Secondly, we must frankly admit that humankind is entitled to something
better than what we see around us. We and, much more, our children and future
generations are entitled to a better world, a world free from degradation,
violence and bloodshed, a world of generosity and love.
Thirdly, aware of the value of prayer, we must implore God the Creator to
enlighten people everywhere regarding the duty to respect and carefully guard
We therefore invite all men and women of good will to ponder the importance
of the following ethical goals:
1. To think of the world's children when we reflect on and evaluate our
options for action.
2. To be open to study the true values based on the natural law that
sustain every human culture.
3. To use science and technology in a full and constructive way, while
recognizing that the findings of science have always to be evaluated in the
light of the centrality of the human person, of the common good, and of the
inner purpose of creation. Science may help us to correct the mistakes of the
past, in order to enhance the spiritual and material well-being of the present
and future generations. It is love for our children that will show us the path
that we must follow into the future.
4. To be humble regarding the idea of ownership and to be open to the
demands of solidarity. Our mortality and our weakness of judgment together
warn us not to take irreversible actions with what we choose to regard as our
property during our brief stay on this earth. We have not been entrusted with
unlimited power over creation, we are only stewards of the common heritage.
5. To acknowledge the diversity of situations and responsibilities in the
work for a better world environment. We do not expect every person and every
institution to assume the same burden. Everyone has a part to play, but for
the demands of justice and charity to be respected the most affluent societies
must carry the greater burden, and from them is demanded a sacrifice greater
than can be offered by the poor. Religions, governments, and institutions are
faced by many different situations; but on the basis of the principle of
subsidiarity all of them can take on some tasks, some part of the shared
6. To promote a peaceful approach to disagreement about how to live on this
earth, about how to share it and use it, about what to change and what to
leave unchanged. It is not our desire to evade controversy about the
environment, for we trust in the capacity of human reason and the path of
dialogue to reach agreement. We commit ourselves to respect the views of all
who disagree with us, seeking solutions through open exchange, without
resorting to oppression and domination.
It is not too late. God's world has incredible healing powers. Within a
single generation, we could steer the earth toward our children's future. Let
that generation start now, with God's help and blessing.
John Paul II
10 June 2002