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Environment, theology and peace at the centre of the events attended by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Athens

During his visit to Athens, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew delivered a keynote address at a special event organised on Wednesday morning, 17 April 2024, as part of the 9th International ‘Our Ocean’ Conference. The event, titled “Marine Waste: Bridging Science and Policy Formation,” was hosted by the Athanasios K. Laskaridis Public Benefit Foundation.

In his speech, the Ecumenical Patriarch emphasised humanity’s links with the natural world, highlighting our shared responsibility to ensure the survival and sustainability of our planet. Stressing the vital role of water for life, he underscored the importance of protecting the oceans from pollution and degradation. “The oceans and seas, which provide nearly half of the oxygen we breathe and play a crucial role in purifying the atmosphere, require our diligent care,” he said. He called for the implementation of effective policies and environmental regulations to safeguard marine health, which is fundamental to human well-being, biodiversity, and climate stability.

Highlighting the severe threats facing marine ecosystems such as overfishing, pollution, and resource depletion, the Ecumenical Patriarch warned of the urgent need to address these challenges. He lamented the impact of conflicts in regions like the Middle East, North Africa, and Ukraine on the delicate balance of oceanic environments. Stressing the connection between human actions and their consequences for the planet, he emphasised that protecting the oceans is essential for our survival and the sustainability of the Earth.

Expressing gratitude to the Athanasios K. Laskaridis Public Benefit Foundation for organising the event and supporting initiatives to combat marine pollution, the Ecumenical Patriarch commended the Foundation’s commitment to allocating ten million euros over the next five years to address plastic pollution in Greek waters. He concluded by urging continued collective efforts to protect the natural environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

Later, the Ecumenical Patriarch had a meeting with Mr. Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs of Greece, to discuss matters of mutual interest. His Eminence Metropolitan Theodoritos of Laodicea, the Director of the Representative Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Athens, the Grand Ecclesiarch Archimandrite Aetios, the Director of the Private Patriarchal Office, Mr. Georgios Kalantzis, the Secretary General for Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Education, and Mr. Nikolaos Dimakis, the Director of the Minister’s Office, were also present.

Following the meeting, the Ecumenical Patriarch attended the ceremony awarding the title of Professor Emeritus of the University of Athens to Prof. Vlassios Feidas, a Professor of the Theological School. His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece also participated in the ceremony, along with His Eminence Metropolitan Georgios of Guinea representing His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, numerous hierarchs, clergy, university professors, families, and students.

Afterwards, Professor Gerasimos Siasos, the University’s Rector, welcomed the Patriarch and engaged in a brief discussion with him at his official office. Subsequently, the Ecumenical Patriarch joined an official luncheon hosted by the University at the Cultural Centre “Kostis Palamas,” where he briefly addressed the attendees, acknowledging the significance of the title bestowed upon the esteemed theologian and expressing gratitude to the Mother Church of Constantinople.

Later in the afternoon, the Ecumenical Patriarch attended and delivered remarks at the Philological Association “Parnassos,” where he serves as Honorary President. The occasion marked the presentation of a book by Professor Stamatios Georgoulis on the life and legacy of the late Swedish politician Olof Palme, published on the 38th anniversary of his tragic death.

In addition, in a distinguished ceremony held at the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Poor-house, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew invested Mr. Nicholas Pateras as Archon Offikialios of the Great Church of Christ, in the presence of the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, along with esteemed dignitaries, clergy, and members of the faithful.

Photos: Nikos Papachristou / Ecumenical Patriarchate