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Truly a grass roots Catholic movement

On December 10, we met the French president, François Hollande, to deliver the 900,000 signatures of our Catholic Climate Petition in coalition with other faith groups.

Collectively, we delivered a total of 1,833,973 signatures. An impressive amount of faith-inspired people demanding climate justice.

The French government presided at the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, so by delivering these petition signatures to Hollande we made our voices heard to the highest political authority of the climate negotiations.

This is a follow up to the November 28 interfaith event in which we delivered our petition signatures to the United Nations Climate Chief, Christiana Figueres.

We met Hollande in the Elysee Palace, represented by prominent faith leaders from the four faith-based networks that collaborated in this campaign: our Global Catholic Climate Movement, the ACT Alliance (coalition of Protestant groups), Religions for Peace and OurVoices.

At the ceremony, Hollande thanked the group, saying he was pleased to receive them “just a few hours before the end of the climate conference.” He added, “We must protect the planet… Through the petitions, through the walks and pilgrimages, you have committed to defend life.”

The French president then spoke of the importance of bringing together religious leaders of all faiths to protect the world’s common heritage.

He said, “It is necessary that all citizens engage and mobilise, like you have done. Your example has paved the way, through all the walks and pilgrimages, together with these petitions. I hope the petitions will have as much influence as possible while we’re still negotiating the agreement. Your message, your petitions, must be heard and this voice you are bringing, must be listened to.”

The spokesperson for our movement was Bishop Leonardo Steiner, an auxiliary in Brasilia and the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Brazil, who has been a key promoter of the Global Catholic Climate Campaign in his country.

On behalf of the Catholic community, he said, “As people of faith, we are extremely pleased to meet you today to deliver these petition signatures and demand climate justice. We are extremely concerned about the climate crisis. But we know that all is not lost.”

He then quoted Pope Francis as saying in his encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home (Laudato Si’), “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start.”

We were blessed too by the presence of Yeb Saño, the former Philippine climate negotiator that gained world prominence in 2013 when he broke into tears at the United Nations climate negotiations asking for urgent climate action.

Saño recently led the People’s Pilgrimage from the Vatican to Paris and, as the climate ambassador for OurVoices, has been an active member of the Catholic Climate Campaign promoting our petition in The Philippines.

He brought with him a pile of petition sheets with over 30,000 signatures of Filipinos to illustrate the immense amount of faith-inspired people who are demanding climate justice.

“As a way to express faith communities’ deep sense of urgency regarding the climate crisis, we embarked on pilgrimages from all over the world and many pilgrims walked to Paris from different countries, spreading hope for the future of humanity and hope for the Conference of Parties, carrying the message of climate justice and our solidarity as one human family,” Saño said.

This was the epilogue of our petition campaign, an amazing mobilisation effort through which we collected 900,000 signatures in seven months (the campaign will continue in 2016, for Catholics to put pressure on national and subnational governments).

Catholic communities, parishes, schools, youth groups and families have mobilised as never before for climate justice. This was a powerful message from the grassroots, making clear that the Catholic community stands with Pope Francis asking for bold action to tackle the climate crisis.

With about 24 hours before the summit officially ended, we prayed for a fair and transformative agreement that could advance the climate justice we have been demanding.

It truly was a beautiful testimony about how humanity can come together to overcome the challenges we face. Let’s pray for governments to unite and collaborate as faith communities did this morning.

To all those who prayed, sought to learn something or took part in any initiative to raise awareness on climate dangers, thanks for being part of our movement.

Ellen Teague