Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, dubbed the "green patriarch" because of his environmental activism, called the recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast a sin against nature and God.
Bartholomew, who is the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, said the situation calls for urgent prayers for an effective response to the crisis.
"[W]e also have a responsibility not only to pray, but also to declare that to mistreat the natural environment is to sin against humanity, against all living things, and against our creator God," he wrote in a column posted on The Huffington Post.
After 21 days, BP PLC and its team of experts have still not been able to stop the oil gushing out of the undersea well after the explosion on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Some 210,000 gallons of oil is pouring into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico every day.
The April 20 blast killed 11 workers and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and counting, in cleanup efforts, and killed marine life. The uncontained oil spill is creeping towards the U.S. coastline and threatens the coast's active fishing industry.
Various efforts to seal the leaked oil well have thus far proven unsuccessful.
Bartholomew said everyone – individuals, institutions and industries – are responsible for the "man-made disaster."
"[A]ll of us are accountable for ignoring the global consequences of environmental exploitation," said the ecumenical patriarch. "One deepwater pipe will impact millions of lives in several states as well as countless businesses and industries."
President Obama visited the Gulf Coast earlier this month to survey the oil spill and said it threatens to be a "massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster." He also noted the damage it could do to the Gulf Coast fishing industry, which the president called "the heartbeat of the region's economic life."
The White House and some members of Congress have, in recent days, called for more understanding of the environmental impact and responsibility of offshore drilling for oil before beginning such activity. A month earlier, Obama had lifted a decades-long moratorium on offshore oil drilling along U.S. coastlines.
"We support this (more research) approach," said Bartholomew. "For, as confident as interested parties were that a disaster like this could not occur because of watertight controls and fail-safe mechanisms installed, those controls and mechanisms failed, with the horrific results we witness unfolding each day."
The global Christian leader called on people to help stop the oil spill, support the affected region, and make changes to avoid a similar disaster in the future.
Last year, the ecumenical patriarch met with President Obama at the White House to discuss the issue of climate change and ecological responsibility.