Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, in a prayer service on the Greek island of Lesbos (Credit: L’Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP)
Today, September 1st 2016, is a momentous occasion. All over the world, Christians from every major denomination are uniting in an official day of prayer dedicated to an issue of the utmost importance to all of us: our Earth, and the threats to its – and therefore our own – wellbeing. Indeed, the whole month of September and early October – known as the Season of Creation – will see a host of prayer services and other activities on the same topic. Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew both just released very powerful statements warning of “the catastrophic world developments in environmental matters” and inviting us to “acknowledge our sins against creation, the poor and future generations.”
These prayers are not taking place in a vacuum. The idea of praying for creation on September 1st was first introduced by the Orthodox Church in 1989, and several other Christian churches have followed since. In recent years these Christian churches have started celebrating the month-long Season of Creation (also known as Creation Time) running till October 4, which is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, author of the Canticle of the Creatures in the 13th century. It is no coincidence, however, that Pope Francis chose last year, just two months after his own Laudato Si’ Encyclical on ecological issues and four months before the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to announce that the Catholic Church would also participate.