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1st ANNUAL GREAT VESPERS SERVICE FOR THE FEAST OF INDICTION AND PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT HELD IN GLENVIEW, ILLINOIS

Keynote Presentation “Stewardship of the Environment”
offered by Dr. Gayle Woloschak

CHICAGO, IL:  On Wednesday, August 31, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago held the first of what is planned to be an new annual event within the Metropolis; the service of Great Vespers for the Feast of the Indiction and Protection of the Environment.

Held at SS. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Glenview, Illinois, the large congregation included a mix of Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic parishioners, highlighted by Greek Orthodox Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, Roman Catholic Bishop George Rassas, and Consul General of Greece in Chicago Polyxeni Petropoulou. This special service was composed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Following the service, a presentation “Stewardship of the Environment” was given by Dr. Gayle Wokoschak.

Dr. Gayle Woloschak is currently a professor of Radiation Oncology at Northwestern University in Chicago and an adjunct professor of Religion and Science at Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, and at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Toledo (Medical College of Ohio), and a Doctorate of Ministry in Eastern Christian Studies from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Her laboratory interests include molecular biology, radiation biology and nano-biotechnology, and her science-religion fields include biological evolution, stem cell reasearch, and ecology.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has gained a reputation as a prominent environmentalist, putting the support of the Patriarchate behind various international environmental causes. His work throughout the years has earned him the nickname “the Green Patriarch.”

Since 1989, the Ecumenical Patriarch has invited Orthodox Christians throughout the world to reserve September 1the ecclesiastical new year, as a day of prayer for environmental protection. Numerous Christian communions have followed suit, encouraged by the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches. Last August, Pope Francis announced plans to mark a day of prayer as well, saying he was calling on Roman Catholics to follow the lead of the Patriarch of Constantinople and Orthodox Christians in observing September 1 as a day of prayer for environmental protection.

Patriarch Bartholomew observed, “If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social and illegal. We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation. When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin?"    He noted, "The way we respond to the natural environment is directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering. So the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves. When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God?"

"We have been commanded to taste of the world’s fruits, not to waste them; we have been commissioned to care for the world, not to waste it. When Christ fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish on a hill in Palestine, he instructed his disciples to “gather up all of the remaining fragments, so that nothing may be lost.” (John 6.12) This instruction should serve as a model in a time of wasteful consumption, where even the refuse of affluent societies can nourish entire populations" continued Patriarch Bartholomew.

The Metropolis of Chicago oversees all Greek Orthodox Parishes within Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and large portions of Missouri and Indiana. You can find more information on the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago on our website: www.chicago.goarch.org.