By Robin Gomes
The waters of the Mediterranean Sea have “become a tomb for men, women and children” is how Pope Francis lamented the fate of migrants and refugees in a message to an international ecological symposium that kicked off on Tuesday in the Greek capital, Athens.
Pope Francis sent his message to a June 5-8 symposium entitled, “Toward a Greener Attica: Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People,” taking place in Athens, Greece, sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
In his message addressed to the symposium participants and host, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, Pope Francis recalled his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, 2016, during which he together with Patriarch Bartholomew and Orthodox Archbishop Hieronymus II of Athens, expressed their concern and closeness to migrants and refugees stranded there, pending processing of their application for asylum.
Theologians, scientists, political, business leaders, activists and journalists from around the world are participating in the June 5-8 symposium entitled, “Toward a Greener Attica: Preserving the Planet and Protecting its People,” sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Attica or the Attic peninsula, is a historical region that encompasses the city of Athens, the capital of present day Greece.
"While enchanted by the scenery of the blue sky and the sea, I was struck by the thought that such a beautiful sea had become a tomb for men, women and children who for the most past sought to escape tried to escape the inhuman conditions of their lands,” the Pope wrote referring to desperate migrants and refugees who perished on in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe.
The Pope said that during his Lesbos visit he was able to witness the generosity of the Greek people, rich in human and Christian values, who despite their economic constraints were commitment to comforting those who “dispossessed of all material goods, had made to their shores".
Among Catholic Church’s participants in the symposium are Cardinal John Olorunfermi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who read out the message of Pope Francis at the gathering.
Ecological crisis rooted in the human heart
The Holy Father noted that “it is not just the homes of vulnerable people around the world that are crumbling, as can be seen in the growing exodus of climate migrants and environmental refugees,” but as he pointed out in his environmental Encyclical “Laudato Si”, they are also “condemning future generations to live in a common home that is reduced to ruins.”
While repeating the question in “Laudato Si”, "What kind of world do we wish to transmit to those who will come after us, to the children who are growing up?" the Argentinian pope called for a "serious examination of conscience" in the face of the current ecological crisis. "The care of creation, seen as a shared gift and not as a private possession,” he said, “always entails the recognition and the respect of the rights of every person and every people".
The ecological crisis affecting all humanity, he said is “ultimately rooted in the human heart, that aspires to control and exploit the limited resources of our planet, while ignoring the vulnerable members of the human family.”
World Day of Prayer for Creation
Recalling his message for the September 1 World Day of Prayer for Creation, written together with Patriarch Bartholomew, the Pope said that the duty to care for creation challenges all people of good will and invites Christians to recognize the spiritual roots of the ecological crisis and to cooperate in offering an unequivocal response.
The annual World Day of Prayer for Creation, he said, is a step in this direction as it demonstrates the common concern and aspiration to work together to address this sensitive issue.
The Pope concluded his message hoping that Catholics, Orthodox, other Christian communities along with people of good will, may “actively work together in local contexts for the care of creation and for a sustainable and integral development.”