Cycling pilgrimage to Paris is just around the corner

Phase 1 of cycle ride

Barbara Kentish and Fr Joe Ryan in front of Westminster Cathedral at the launch of the pilgrimage

With only two weeks to go until our small band of intrepid cyclists pedal to Paris, we are making our last minute preparations, oiling our bike chains and stocking up on puncture repair kits.

There are 17 cyclists in total who will be making the journey, and they represent a diverse group of people of all ages and from different walks of life. We have Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and Quakers, who have all been inspired to show their support for the upcoming UN climate talks and to lend their voices to the thousands of people who will converge on France’s capital to call for action to lower global carbon emissions.

Each cyclist has their own reason for joining our pilgrimage, but they all have one thing in common: a love of creation and the environment. Every day leading up to the start of the pilgrimage, we will feature a profile of one of our pilgrims, highlighting their motivations for cycling and what their hopes are for the outcomes of the talks. Where better to start than with our organisers Fr Joe Ryan and Barbara Kentish?

Fr Joe and Barbara have worked tirelessly at Westminster Justice and Peace for the last 10 years, campaigning to raise awareness of social justice issues. Climate change will have the most impact on those living in the world’s poorest communities and Barbara wanted to do something big to mark COP21. Previous climate change conferences have been inconclusive, but with the publication of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Laudato Si, there has been a real momentum behind environmental action and a feeling that a legally-binding agreement on reduction of carbon emissions will be reached.

Inspired by other pilgrims, such as Yeb Saño walking from Rome to Paris, Barbara decided that cycling from London to Paris would be an environmentally friendly way of taking action and would help to highlight the importance of the summit. She says “Everyone needs to realise the importance of our situation. It is time for civil society to act to prevent irreparable damage to creation and faith groups have an enormous amount to contribute to this.”

Fr Joe is passionate about the environment, and his parish St John Vianney’s was the first in the Westminster diocese to receive the livesimply award from CAFOD, recognising a parish’s commitment to living simply, sustainably, and in solidarity with the poor. “I feel that [the conference in Paris] is a major chapter in the history of the human race. I believe that we need to support our politicians, our world leaders, and from the ground be able to indicate our need for a serious change.”

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(The first phase of our journey, from London to Newhaven, was completed in August).