Throughout his time as the leader of the world’s orthodox churches, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has earned the moniker , “The Green Patriarch.” Bartholomew I believes that taking care of the environment is a religious imperative, and that leaders of all major religious denominations and the scientific community must work together to help solve the world’s environmental concerns, concerns which, according to many mainstream scientists stem in large part to Global Warming. The Patriarch said that the moral decline of society, the world’s over-consumption and materialism, and environmental issues are all linked and that people must draw distinctions, “between what we want and what we need.” Bartholomew’s stance on moral decline and the environment represents a major theological shift in orthodox religion, one which could be aimed at attracting new, youthful, ‘Green’ membership. According to Kallistos Ware, an orthodox theologian, “Traditionally in Christianity, sin was what you did to other humans, but Bartholomew insisted that what you do to the animals, the air, the water, the land, can be sinful, not just folly, and that was quite a change.”
As the leader of the largest Christian church in the world, Pope Benedict XVI is the spiritual authority the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, and this past week the Pontiff has embraced a new way to communicate with that large membership… Twitter. Official announcements from the Vatican this week informed the world that the Pope’s Twitter account, @Pontifex will most likely not follow anyone, but will be followed by many. The Pope will send out weekly messages which address major theological concerns, contemporary world events, and words of wisdom. While embracing Twitter and other forms of social media will no doubt help the Vatican modernize, it does raise some theological questions. To some the Pope’s words and decrees are considered to be infallible… does that now mean that his Twitter posts will be such?
The Papacy, long criticized for not embracing modernity, has actually had a history of using the newest technology: In 1896 Pope Leo XIII became the first pope to appear on film. In 1931 Pope Pius XI was the first pope to make a radio broadcast. In 1949 Pope Pius XII was the first to appear on television.