Source: Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News
Members of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN), on pilgrimage from June’s G7 in Cornwall to November’s COP26 in Glasgow, had a great welcome from churches in and around London while passing through these past few days. Services and meetings at St Paul’s Cathedral – where they were greeted by Anglican Bishop John Sentamu – St John’s Waterloo, Lambeth Palace, Wesley’s Chapel, St Martin in the Fields and St James Piccadilly included a gathering for action, prayer, and reflection in Westminster Cathedral.
As around 100 people gathered in the piazza of Westminster Cathedral on Friday afternoon, waiting to go in, the line ups for photos demonstrated both Catholic and ecumenical support for the pilgrimage. Four Westminster Diocesan priests attended, including the current Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, and former one, Fr Joe Ryan. Alongside the YCCN banners there was Westminster Justice and Peace, CAFOD, Caritas, Pax Christi, Jesuit Mission, Columban JPIC, and ARocha. “What do we want? Climate justice!” echoed round Victoria.
When we walked down to the Lady Chapel we saw that the YCCN boat had been set up on the altar. The relay is accompanied along the whole route by this boat whose sail bears fabrics from climate threatened places – pointing to the hundreds of millions of people whose lives are threatened by sea level rise, cyclones, and other climate related disasters. It sat well alongside the chapel’s decoration where above the altar is the Tree of Life (the Cross) and from it gushes fountains of living water; its branches produce vines and refuge for birds and other living creatures.
Colette Joyce of Westminster Justice and Peace welcomed the congregation, followed by testimonies from Florence, Sophie and Naomi, three of the walkers. They explained the reasons for the relay. Pilgrims are calling on the government to meet and exceed their own climate finance commitments, reinstate the original aid budget and to cancel the debts of poor countries. The pilgrims also seek to raise awareness of COP26 and urged participants to spread the word “to look out for us and we would like as many people to join us as possible”. They were clapped as they stepped down amidst an animated and joyful spirit in the very chapel where Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the primary target for climate lobbying – was married at the end of May.
After a prayer of thanks, taken from the song of the three young men in the furnace in the Book of Daniel, a reflection on “ecological conversion” was given by Chris Carling, a student and Westminster Justice and Peace volunteer. He felt the ecological conversion called for in Laudati Si’ is a process that lasts a lifetime. Despite such challenges as the melting ice caps and polluting the oceans with plastic, “grace will overflow with YCCN”. Then a reflection from Pope Francis calling on each person to “be a guardian of our common home,” and protect all God’s creation, including other species.
We said together the final prayer from CAFOD:
“Inspire us to care for the environment:
to help rebuild lives and communities;
to share in the griefs and anxieties, joys and hopes of all your people,
so that all your creation may flourish. Amen.
The pilgrimage has been very successful in drawing attention to God’s presence in the world, particularly to people and places which are the first victims of the climate crisis. Anglican ordinand Hannah Malcom based her Saturday morning Radio 4 Thought for the Day reflection on it.
The young people have travelled through Truro, Exeter, Bristol, Reading and London, being received enthusiastically and offered hospitality by churches of all denominations, and are now heading north towards Glasgow.
Colette Joyce rounded off the service by telling the pilgrims, “you are doing a tremendous job and we will follow you all the way.” More clapping!
YCCN – www.yccn.uk/