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Walking on the earth for the earth

HONG KONG (SE): “Meeting with these groups reminded us of the central dimension of our journey,” Yeb Saño, a former Philippine negotiator to the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, who is currently heading a people’s pilgrimage from Rome to Paris, said as his caravan of travellers was welcomed in Geneva after crossing from Italy into Switzerland.

“We became more conscious of both our own spiritual growth and also the spirituality at the heart of so many of the people and organisations who have helped make our walk possible,” he continued.

The groups departed from Rome on the feast of All Saints, November 1, with the blessing of Pope Francis on their heads, remembering St. Francis of Assisi and all the saints who have worked for justice and systemic change.

The People’s Pilgrimage made stops along the way, at each point reflecting on some point of Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’) and how to turn it into concrete action.

On the first day it reflected on Pope Francis’ words in the encyclical, “St. Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.”

On the feast of All Souls, November 2, the group reflected on those who have lost their lives to climate change. Saño cited Typhoon Haiyan, which took so many lives in his native Philippines during the 2013 conference on November 8 two years ago.

He reflected that while our natural inclination is to avoid such negative feelings, honouring our grief is an important step in deepening our reliance on God and our compassion for others.

The group is walking so we may hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, as allowing ourselves to pray with our despair does lead to action.

Geneva was an important stop for the pilgrimage, as it visited the Ecumenical Centre and the Lutheran World Federation. It was also hosted by the World Council of Churches and the ACT Alliance, a coalition of 137 Churches acting to protect the environment.

Saño reported, “We also had the opportunity to walk to the United Nations Office. It was a stark reminder to all of us of why we are walking. But seeing our diverse group of pilgrims in front of the United Nations also filled me with hope—hope that irrespective of what our leaders produce from Paris, ordinary citizens around the world are committed to working together on every level.”

He added, “Across the world we are working as communities and cities, as faith groups and organisations, and as pilgrims, walking together out of love, faith and hope that we can build a better future together.”

The People’s Pilgrimage will be received by the president of France, François Hollande, on November 29. 

Hollande will accept a petition from the pilgrimage on the day before world leaders gather for their much anticipated gathering.


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