Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Officially Opens Eighth Environmental Symposium in New Orleans

(GOA Press Office) NEW ORLEANS – His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew officially opened today the Eighth Religion, Science and the Environment (RSE) Symposium, entitled “Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River,” which takes place here for the next five days under his high patronage and includes a large and diverse group of theologians, scientists, policymakers, environmentalists, representatives of business and NGOs, and media.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans welcomed the Ecumenical Patriarch and read a cordial, prayerful and personal message from Pope Benedict XVI in which he conveyed his support and solidarity in the effort of caring and protecting the environment and “the safeguarding of God’s creation.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his very significant opening address said that “we have reached a defining moment in our history…the point where absolute limits to our survival are being reached,” and we “instead of living on income, or the available surplus of the earth, we are consuming environmental capital and destroying its resources as if there is no tomorrow.” (See full text below)

Following the Patriarchal Address, retired US Senator Paul Sarbanes, who is a participant in the symposium read a message from former Vice President Al Gore, in which he expressed his esteem and respect for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s perseverance demonstrated by this Eighth Environmental Symposium. Al Gore was the first to address Patriarch Bartholomew as the “Green Patriarch” in 1997 when welcoming him to Washington D.C.

Finally, Archbishop Demetrios, as the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, offered an official welcome to the Ecumenical Patriarch both to the United States and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which is an eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“We are in this wounded city, New Orleans, and in an equally wounded River, the mighty Mississippi.  And we are here to contribute, as much as it is possible, to the healing of both,” said Archbishop Demetrios and added that His All Holiness is “the Healer Patriarch who laboriously, incessantly, and deliberately serves in an extraordinary way the ecological healing process and tends to the wounds inflicted upon nature by human beings.”

Information on the Ecumenical Patriarch and his visit to the U.S., including links to live broadcasting, photo galleries and press releases can also be found online at: and on the Mississippi symposium at: