September 5—8, 2012 • Off-Campus
From September 5—8, The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr, dean and professor of Patristics of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, journeyed to the Monastero di Bose in the province of Biella, Italy, to participate in the XX International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality. The monastery at Bose is a traditional community founded in the mid-1960's, and is composed of about eighty men and women from all major Christian traditions. The Orthodox Spirituality conferences  have been hosted at Bose since the early 1990's, and have featured a variety of themes from missions to Holy Scripture.
Themed “Man—Custodian of Creation,” this year's conference gathered senior Orthodox theologians, who were joined by Protestant and Catholic brethren from around the world, to participate in a packed schedule of presentations and discussions about today’s pressing ecological concerns.
“It was good to reflect together on all the different aspects of creation and man's role within it,” noted Fr. John, who offered the patristic perspective in his lecture “Nature, Wounded and Healed, in Early Patristic Thought.” Additionally, “as with all conferences, the discussions that went on alongside the formal sessions were just as important, often lasting till late into the night.”
Prior to the conference, the Vatican Insider reported : "In four days of debates open to the public, the speakers will delve into the theological and spiritual dimension of man's relationship with the environment that surrounds him, questioning the values that can inspire us to make responsible decisions in the face of ecological crisis, caused by man himself, that is causing irreversible injury to life on our planet."
The stellar line up of Orthodox speakers included Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Fr. John Chryssavgis of Boston, and Bishop Amvrosij of Gatčina, Rector of the Theological Academy of St. Petersburg. Several Catholic dignitaries and representatives of the Church of England, the World Council of Churches, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity attended and spoke as well.
“The goodness of creation according to the Bible, the relationship between nature and (the) wound healed, and the history of salvation, the understanding of the relationship between man and creation in the early church fathers...are central to the ideas proposed by John Behr of New York,” wrote the Insider.
Participants also explored a variety of other topics central to the theological understanding of man and the creation, including: monasticism and creation, creation in the Orthodox liturgy, man's relationship to and responsibility for the created world, creation and iconography, and the Church and ecological issues.
In his final remarks, Bose's Prior Enzo Bianchi summarized, "The ecological crisis, as Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum said, is not only the consequence of individualism, of opulence, of consumerism, but is above all a consequence of a pathology of man’s identity, who risks forgetting who he is and to what he is called. Our conferences, which from the very beginning have had the blessing of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which have always supported and encouraged us, and now also the blessing of the other Orthodox Churches, would like to be an antidote in this direction, a humble possibility of encounter, a seed of hope!"
View the conference photo gallery