Young Adult Report – COP26 – A Missed Opportunity

Some of the CAFOD youth delegation outside the SEC. Caitlin is front row, third from left.

Source: Caritas Westminster

From 5-7th November 2021 Caitlin Boyle from the Diocese of Westminster joined CAFOD as part their COP26 youth delegation in marching, campaigning and praying for climate action and justice in Glasgow. Over 30 young adults were part of CAFOD’s COP26 youth delegation who travelled up to Glasgow to apply pressure on world leaders attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be bold and ambitious in their attempts to tackle the climate crisis. 

Caitlin also works as the Information Officer for Caritas Westminster and here gives her report on the experience of campaigning for climate justice.

The CAFOD delegation were able to visit the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), where the COP26 talks and negotiations were taking place, to hear from different scientists, activist groups and indigenous people from all around the world about the effects the climate crisis is having globally and what measures need to be in place to help mitigate them. On Saturday 6th November, despite inclement weather, the CAFOD delegation joined other faith groups (including SCIAF, Jesuit Missions, Islamic Relief, Tearfund and Christian Aid), local organisations and climate activists in marching through the centre of Glasgow, as part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, with around 100,000 people attending in Glasgow alone!

cop26
Photo credit: Thom Flint

Whilst in Glasgow, Caitlin and the CAFOD youth delegation were campaigning for global leaders to commit to plans to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees; deliver the money promised to low-income countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change; and to consign fossil fuels to history. 

Speaking about why she went to Glasgow, Caitlin says: 

‘Climate change is affecting us all, no matter where we are in the world, though it is most adversely affecting people in poorer countries, costing people their livelihoods, their homes, and even their lives, despite these countries contributing least to the crisis. Even here in the UK, however, where the effects will be much less severe, floods and heatwaves are likely to disproportionately affect more deprived communities.


‘The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated and compounded social, economic, and environmental inequalities, with poorer communities again more susceptible to their effects – something I have seen through my work at Caritas Westminster. The pandemic has put further strain on communities ill-equipped to deal with these crises.


‘As the host of COP26, the UK government had a really crucial role in setting the tone for how the world emerges from the pandemic, ensuring that a post-Covid world is one which is equitable – it should not be another missed opportunity.’

The two-week climate conference ended this past weekend (Saturday 13th November). Despite progress in agreeing to phase out fossil fuel usage and investment as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact – the first COP agreement which specifically talks about fossil fuel divestment – world leaders failed to act with the courage and immediacy needed to effectively support those on the front line of the climate crisis. They delayed action on limiting temperature increases, and did not deliver the climate finance that is urgently needed.

Speaking about the decisions made at COP26, Caitlin says:

‘It is disappointing that once again, world leaders failed to place those who are most adversely affected by the climate crisis at the heart of their discussions. As Catholics, it is our duty to work for the common good, and speak out for the poor, the marginalised and the voiceless, and so it is essential that we engage with and campaign on issues relating to social and climate justice. We are called to be stewards of God’s creation, and to protect it. 

‘Despite government inaction at this COP, we as young Catholics must continue to campaign for our common home; the eyes of the world now need to be firmly focused on those who are actually feeling the effects of the climate crisis first hand.

‘Pope Francis said at the start of COP26 that, “The political decision-makers who will meet at COP26 in Glasgow are urgently summoned to provide effective responses to the present ecological crisis, and in this way to offer concrete hope to future generations.” Whilst the decision makers may not have provided the effective responses needed this time, I can certainly draw hope from the amazing campaigners I got to work with as part of the CAFOD delegation, and their commitment and enthusiasm has emboldened and mobilised me to continue to speak out about climate injustice!’ 

Caritas Westminster is working with the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission to encourage local action against climate change, and supporting Westminster Diocese’s plans for decarbonisation.

Catholics at COP26

Catch up with the webinar held on Wednesday 10th November 2021 chaired by Bishop John Arnold, Lead Bishop for the Environment for the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

The event was organised by the international Laudato Si’ Movement and the Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS) project to engage with climate science, explore insights from theology, and discuss the Church’s role in communication and action around the climate crisis.

The webinar featured contributions from Dr Lorna Gold (Board Chair of the Laudato Si’ Movement), Dr Carmody Grey (Assistant Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University), Dr Franziska Kohlt (Researcher in Science Communication, University of York & ECLAS), Lydia Machaka (Climate Justice and Energy Policy Officer, CIDSE), and Fr Eduardo Augusto O’Carm, (Climate Scientist).

“Pope Francis has asked us to take decisive, urgent action to transform this crisis into an opportunity. As Catholics, we have a role to play as well, each and every one of us.”

Bishop John Arnold

Prayer Service to Welcome Little Amal to Westminster Cathedral

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Little AmalPicture by Jane Lowe

On Monday 25th October 2021 we welcomed a very unusual visitor to Westminster Cathedral. Little Amal is a 3.5m puppet of a refugee girl who has walked  from the border of  Turkey / Syria and is heading to Manchester, a journey of 8000km, in search of her mother. Amal’s journey is intended to raise awareness of the many people who undertake such migrant journeys across Europe, especially unaccompanied children. Each one has a personal story of loss, hardship and the search for safety. Amal has already been welcomed to Rome by Pope Francis in September and to St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Saturday 23rd October, as well as many other cultural and religious landmarks in Europe and the UK.

A choir from the Zimbabwean Chaplaincy were waiting on the steps with Cardinal Vincent Nichols to welcome Amal, while musicians and singers from the Congolese Chaplaincy led her into the Cathedral. Cardinal Vincent climbed into the pulpit where he greeted Amal with the words, ‘Welcome to our heart, our home…’

After her welcome from the Cardinal, Amal was invited to walk around the front of the Cathedral visiting the Chapel of St Paul, the Lady Chapel and the Sanctuary as prayers were said at each of these sacred spaces.

First Station – The Chapel of St Paul

Reader: Amal, first we would like to show you the Chapel dedicated to Saint Paul. Like you, Saint Paul was on a journey. His journey was from Jerusalem to Damascus. At the beginning of his journey Saint Paul was persecuting the followers of Jesus, but on that journey Saint Paul also heard the call of Jesus, which changed the course of his entire life. Saint Paul encountered dangers and stresses of many different kinds, but he didn’t give up because he was strengthened by his love of God and God’s love for him, and he was convinced that what he was doing was the right thing to do.

Prayer: We pray for all those who have fled from their homeland to avoid persecution, that they will meet with kindness and understanding on their way to a safer life. We pray, too, for ourselves, that we may let our actions towards others reflect Christ’s love for all people.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters, that you do unto me.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

Second Station – The Lady Chapel

Reader: Amal, we know that the walk you are on will lead you to your Mother. And, so, we would like to show you this Chapel which is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Having said ‘yes’ to God’s call, Mary, also embarked on a series of journeys, which are shown in the mosaics around the top of this beautiful Chapel; first there was Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, then to Bethlehem and later to Egypt, to escape persecution. Her life, like ours, had moments of great joy as well as great sorrow. She had to follow her son’s journey – Jesus’ journey – to the Cross, and watch Him die, the hardest thing for a parent to bear. But Mary also followed Jesus to Heaven, where she now prays for all of us.

Prayer: Let us pray for all mothers, fathers and those who parent us. Let us thank God for the sacrifices they make and the unconditional love they give their children.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

And we pray to Mary, who is also our Mother, to intercede for us all as we say together……..

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters, that you do unto me.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.

Third Station – The Sanctuary

Reader: Amal, Jesus’ journey through life did not end with His death on the Cross; through his Resurrection, He is still with us, present in the Eucharist, which is celebrated daily on this altar. Jesus in the Eucharist is the food for our journey through life, sustaining us when times are difficult and when our path is hard to follow and accept, which guides us to follow His ways of justice and peace.

Prayer: Let us pray that we can spread hope to those who are suffering persecution; may our minds and hearts be filled with Christ’s love and may we respond with generosity to those who reach out to us in need.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, graciously hear us

Cardinal Vincent led the congregation in praying the ‘Our Father’, followed by a reading from St Matthew’s Gospel:

‘People brought little children to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said. ‘Let the little ones alone, and do not stop them coming to me, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’. Then he laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing’.

Matthew 19: 13 -15

Amal embraces reader Megan Pereira from St Michael & St Martin parish in Hounslow.

Amal greets singers and readers on the sanctuary. The Sri Lankan, Congolese, Syro-Malabar and Zimbabwean Chaplaincies are all represented.

At the end of the service Amal received a birthday card from students at St James Catholic High School in Barnet and a gift of a ceramic angel made by students at Caritas St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, Hendon.

It is hoped that the occasion  will bear fruit in the on-going work of the Diocese of Westminster which will aid the cause of refugees and migrants.

View the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Flickr account for all pictures from the day:

Little Amal, The Migrant Puppet, Visits Westminster Cathedral

See also – Little Amal is Welcomed at Westminster Cathedral

Good Chance Little Amal – The Walk website

Faith communities urge PM to show leadership at COP26

Faith Campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament, 18 October 2021

Source: CAFOD

Representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu faiths handed in a statement for the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street on Monday morning, saying he was in a “unique position to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis” with the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow less than two weeks away.

The statement highlighted calls from more than 75,000 people across faith communities urging Boris Johnson to show leadership by taking action to tackle the climate emergency in a way that is fair and just for those on the frontlines of the crisis. The statement will specifically call on the Prime Minister to:

  • Keep the 1.5C warming limit agreement alive.
  • Ensure rich countries meet commitments to meet and exceed $100bn in climate finance each year to countries hardest hit by the crisis.
  • End support for fossil fuels everywhere.

Participants included Rt Rev Olivia Graham (Anglican Bishop of Reading), Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg (Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism), Imam Emad Choudhury (Imam at Bahu Trust), Avnish Thakrar (National Coordinator, Hindu Climate Action) and Olivia Fuchs (Eco Dharma Network).

The event was organised by CAFOD, Christian Aid, World Vision, SCIAF, Tearfund, and the Faiths 4 Climate Justice network.

Laudato Si’ Animators Pray at Westminster Cathedral – 1st October

Laudato Si’ Animators outside Westminster Cathedral with the ‘Mother of Mercy’ icon

On the 1st October, beginning of the month of the Rosary and towards the end of the Season of Creation, a group of Laudato Si’ Animators gathered outside Westminster Cathedral before and after the 12.30 Mass. 

The purpose was to pray and distribute prayer cards with artist Helen Elwes’ “Mother of Mercy” painting. Thanks to the efforts of Helen and Sr Zoe Leadbetter and the help of various benefactors a big number of these cards has been printed. The hope is that the distribution of this image will help stimulate our Catholic imagination and prayer for our wounded earth. The painting shows Mary, the Mother of Mercy, holding her mantle over all creation, including animals that have become extinct. In the background there are forest fires showing the damage we are doing to the earth. Leaflets about the climate and ecological emergency and the 40 days of prayer before the launching of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (14th November 2021) were also handed out.

Helen Elwes writes

As an artist I have tried to express my grief for what we are doing to our precious planet in the language I know best – in my painting ‘Mother of Mercy’. It is a contemporary image of the ‘Madonna della Misericordia’ set in a landscape destroyed by fire with the burning rainforest in the distance.

Mary kneels with her blue cloak outstretched around the tree of life, protecting praying figures and endangered animals who take refuge beneath it.

Above her head are the words : ‘Mother of Mercy – Pray For Us’

I have painted it as a modern Icon to inspire prayer but have made it in the form of a banner to bring it out into the world as I feel this message is so urgent. It is a response to the climate and ecological emergency the world is now facing and inspired by Pope Francis’ powerful and visionary call to action in Laudato Si’.

Ellen Teague speaks on Ecological Conversion at Hanwell Masses

Ellen Teague with Jack Edwards at the YCCN Climate Service in Westminster Cathedral 6 Aug 2021

Source: Columban Missionaries Britain

Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC Team spoke at Masses on 2nd/3rd October 2021 in Hanwell parish, West London, just before the Feast of St. Francis on 4th October. Her talk marked the end of the Season of Creation and suggested ways to continue parish work on climate change and “ecological conversion”.

May the Lord bless us all the days of our life, says today’s psalm. And not just our lives but the lives of our children’s children. These wonderful words written nearly 3,000 years ago inspire my work on Justice, Peace, Ecology issues for the Columban missionaries. Part of this will be representing them at the international UN climate summit in Glasgow in November – the COP26 that you are seeing in the media.

Pope Francis said this week, “every human being has a right to a healthy environment”. He was referring to protecting Planet Earth, our common home, from climate change. But what has prompted my own mission to care for creation?

As a lay missionary in Northern Nigeria in the early 1980s I saw farmers from Niger moving south to work because their farms in Niger had become desertified and prone to soil erosion. Back in Britain, I worked for CAFOD and helped collect funds for the great Ethiopia famine appeal of 1984. TV pictures showed poor people  queuing for food aid amidst a dusty, oppressively hot environment. In the late 1980s I visited Sudan and will never forget witnessing a million people in a refugee camp near the city of Juba, displaced from their homes by drought, exacerbated by conflict, and sitting in a treeless, sun-baked plain completely reliant on humanitarian aid. I was awakened to what several popes have called an “ecological conversion”.

By the 1990s the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was proving that the stability of the world’s climate was being undermined by humanity dumping greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere. Our planet was heating. Why? Energy and transport reliant on fossil fuels, extractive industries tearing up land to access minerals, industrial agriculture were all responsible, alongside raised standards of living in affluent countries such as ours which have literally devoured Earth’s natural resources. Structural issues have include third world debt which forced countries in the global south to destroy their rainforests and export the timber.

The saddest aspect has been that the weakest communities in the poorest countries, who have done least to cause global warming, have been worst affected.  In 2007 I observed the Archdiocese of Manila in the Philippines hold a climate conference attended by over 2000 people – representation from every parish – because, with over half the parishes at or below sea level, they wanted to prepare for flooding caused by inundation from the rising ocean and for more severe weather. And they have had it in recent times. Fr. Sean McDonagh was the keynote speaker. The Filipino bishops said 20 years ago that, “the destruction of creation is sinful and contrary to the teachings of our faith.”

Today’s readings have a strong focus on marriage, family bonds and the rights of children but these relationships are sorely tested by the climate crisis which has torn families and communities apart. Two million people – mostly in the global south – have died as a result of a five-fold increase in weather-related disasters in our lifetimes. Climate refugees could reach 200 million by 2050. Humanity is increasingly on the move and the stability that families and communities need is in jeopardy. The time to act is now.

In 2015 Pope Francis produced his acclaimed environment encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ which is part of the teaching of the Church. It calls on Catholics and all people to heed the warnings of climate experts. “The climate is a good that must be protected” he said and asked us “to hear the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”. Since then, we have seen increased wild fires, flooding and species extinction around the globe. The climate crisis cannot be ignored anymore, even by those of us not yet feeling the worst impacts.

There is much we can all do.

Tomorrow’s Feast of St. Francis reminds us to appreciate God’s beautiful creation – fresh air, clean water, nutritious food, green spaces, our animal companions. Reflect on your own way of life: avoid waste – especially food waste – conserve water and energy and protect local trees and hedgerows. Share wealth with the victims of climate change.

Hanwell is one of thousands of parishes of all Christian denominations which have celebrated the Season of Creation over the past month. And today, you can support the Climate Appeal of CAFOD. I have a table of resources at the back of the church for finding out more about engagement with COP26. Support your excellent parish Justice and Peace Group, which has raised awareness for many years. Consider becoming a Livesimply parish. And look out for refugees in Ealing and support them – for numbers will grow as people flee climate disasters. Support Westminster Diocese efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Faith groups are divesting from fossil fuels, such as the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in this parish.

Outside of your beautiful parish, in the local community, what about engaging with Hanwell Nature which has campaigned to protect the site of Warren Farm for its biodiversity. Did you know it has the only breeding skylark birds in Ealing? These beautiful birds are being conserved and are a blessing in our lives and the lives of our children’s children.

You can be involved nationally and internationally too. Christians are involved with climate justice because climate change affects most heavily communities least able to deal with it and on countries with low greenhouse emission rates, such as Bangladesh and Fiji. We should listen to our young people who demand a future of peace, green jobs and renewable energy. Young Christians have been walking from Cornwall to COP26 in Glasgow since June – a pilgrimage to raise awareness, pray with local churches, and eventually lobby world leaders converging on the city.  They have reached Manchester this weekend.

Another aspect is that we owe respect to the rest of the natural world. Today’s first reading from Genesis speaks of God creating the animals and birds. God sees creation as very good. ‘Laudato Si’ presents a strong critique of modern consumerism which plunders and destroys the natural world. We need soil, trees, rivers and rainfall in order to survive and the Church is speaking out about this louder than it has ever done.

Pope Francis – a global moral beacon – will be speaking in Glasgow to push for urgent action on climate change. The Columbans are supporting him there and organising a 24-hour vigil on 6th-7th November in liaison with other Catholic groups such as Justice and Peace Scotland and the Jesuits in Scotland. CAFOD is organising events in Glasgow and London that same weekend.

You are invited to sign the ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ Petition.  Our Columbans UK website, Facebook and Twitter are updated daily with news of the Catholic response to justice, peace and ecology issues. Details in our latest newsletter at the back. We will help you play your part in lobbying for a successful UN climate summit in November.

Sign the Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition

Ordinary people like you and me can make a huge difference. At the very least we can identify the habits that have harmed our environment globally and realign as individuals and community to what will keep our society and our environment healthy. This gives everybody hope.

May the Lord indeed bless us all the days of our lives as we follow the Church in promoting justice, peace and “ecological conversion”.

Columban Missionaries Britain

Church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell, West London

Sign the Healthy Planet, Healthy People Petition

Prayers for Migrants and Refugees Outside Home Office

Prayers for migrants outside the Home Office

By JudyAnn Masters

Source: Independent Catholic News

A prayer vigil was held at the Home Office at noon on 5th October, in remembrance of the many refugees and migrants who have drowned in the Channel and in support of those forced to attempt the perilous crossing to England. Campaigners called for safe legal routes for refugees forced to to flee their countries to apply for asylum.

Tributes were also given to the mostly unpaid volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews, who selflessly serve to rescue all who need their help at sea. Barbara Kentish organised this moving event.

It was a grey drizzly day with the sun peeking out occasionally as Home Office staff came and went. The participants conveyed a sense of joy, respect, and purpose as they prayed and sang hymns together. Moving testimonies were read from the crew members of RNLI of their encounters with exhausted, desperate individuals trying to navigate the Channel’s shipping lanes in flimsy inflatable dinghies, ill-equipped to deal with the challenge. Lifeboat crews are committed to saving lives no matter who is at risk, putting politics aside.

There were placards, a baby and a “birthday girl” who had ridden her bike for more than an hour to join the group! Ann Jones, who volunteers at the Catholic Worker and Caritas, was 80 years old that morning and she said there was no better way to start her birthday! And she brought homemade brownies to share!

Thomas Caddick, from Catholic Worker, said he participated in the Home Office action, because he opposes the extreme threat and devastation deportation poses to extremely vulnerable people.

Brother Johannes Maertens, shared that the focus isn’t what we accomplished, it was being present in prayer for people. “We are reminding ourselves and others that refugees are in danger because of the policies that are made in this building…we need to pray for victims who are affected by these policies as well as the people who make the policies in this country…trying to grow together for a better humanity, to be more humane…to be a sign for people here, to be present for all to see, to stand in front of God to testify for humanity…”

Barbara’s prayer vigil was an inspiring blend of reality and hope, of justice and peace. Ben Beno’s poem will have the last word…

A refugee, a refugee,
Lord, into you I flee.
A refugee, a refugee,
O Lord, my refuge be.

Bend down and hear.
my prayer. Come near.
Save and deliver me.
My rock and wall,
a stronghold tall,
my fortress you will be.

A refugee, a refugee,
Lord, into you I flee.
A refugee, a refugee,
O Lord, my refuge be.

Then stay the hand
of those who plan
tp grasp and wreck and crush.
Come rescue me,
Come set me free.

Ben Bano (Seeking Sanctuary)

Praying and Campaigning for Migrants and Refugees – Barbara Kentish at Dover

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees was marked on Dover Seafront by Bishop Paul McAleenan and a gathering of supporters on Saturday 25th September at midday.

Barbara Kentish, Refugee and Migrants lead for the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, gave a reflection at the service and is campaigning against the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through Parliament. Barbara writes:

Now, more than ever, we call on our faith to resist the draconian immigration law currently being discussed in Parliament. The example of migrants’ faith is so inspiring, as is the groundswell of public goodwill, such as we see from the RNLI. Many Councils are also agreeing to take families. Our country can be so much better than the spirit of the Nationality and Borders Bill demonstrates.

Ben Bano, from Seeking Sanctuary, also attended the service and writes:

The well known hymn ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ is frequently associated with military parades and services, but it was a particularly apt choice when we gathered on the Dover seafront for a service on the eve of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees which included a blessing of the sea led by the local parish priest Fr Jeff Cridland.

As we looked out to the sea, it was an opportunity for the 25 people gathered from local churches and faith communities to remember the dangers of the English Channel for migrants and their families in their desperate searches for sanctuary.

The service which was organised by ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ was led by Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead Bishop of the Catholic Church in England and Wales for migrants and refugees, who reminded us of the Christian duty to provide a humane and welcoming attitude to those who attempt to reach our shores having suffered poverty violence and persecution.

Alongside the memorial to migrants who have lost their lives seeking safety we remembered the powerful words of Pope Francis, ‘Every migrant has a name, a face and a story’.

‘Seeking Sanctuary’ aims to raise awareness about people displaced from their homes and to channel basic humanitarian assistance from Faith Communities and Community Organisations via partnerships with experienced aid workers. Our special concern is for the 2000 or so exiles who are stuck in north-western France, mistakenly expecting a welcome in the UK.

They need food, water, good counsel and clothes, which are accepted, sorted and distributed by several organisations, including two Calais warehouses which also supply needs further afield. Contact Ben Bano on 07887 651117 or Phil Kerton on 01474 873802 for ways to help.

For more information see: www.seekingsanctuary.weebly.com

Westminster Cathedral YCCN reflection on ‘Ecological Conversion’

Ecumenical Climate Prayer Service in the Lady Chapel, Westminster Cathedral, 6th August 2021

Source: Independent Catholic News

Chris Carling gave this reflection during the Young Christian Climate Network relay walkers service in Westminster Cathedral on Friday:

Daniel 3:57-81, 88-89

Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace

That Canticle from Daniel sums up how God calls us to cooperate with creation to bless the Lord, to give glory and eternal praise to him. This is what God meant when in Genesis he gave dominion over the earth – not that we dominate or destroy the planet but that we care for creation, we till this earth.

However, humanity has sinned, we have turned away from God and we need conversion; ecological conversion. Like our constant spiritual conversion, this is a process not an event, it will last a lifetime. And it is always the work of the Holy Spirit.

In Romans 5:20 we are told ‘where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more’. Right now humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator is indeed increasing. The canticle proclaims ‘Ice and Snow, bless the Lord’ yet we are melting the ice caps and the glaciers retreat. ‘Seas and Rivers, bless the Lord’, yet we fill the waters with plastic. ‘Everything that grows on earth, bless the Lord’ and we cut down the rainforests. Our sin is increasing, but we do not despair because we are Christian and we have hope. We know that grace will overflow.

Grace is indeed already overflowing in this relay and in the YCCN. Young people filled with the Holy Spirit coming together at this ‘decade defining’ moment to share the call to care for creation. Already 300 miles in, they have touched hundreds of communities by their presence, and countless more by their prayer. Grace is overflowing.

That same grace is overflowing in the young Catholics represented here from CAFOD, CARITAS, Jesuit Missions and others. Knowing, like the YCCN, that climate change affects the world’s poorest, they are helping those most affected by the current crisis to take action. CAFOD are doing excellent work lobbying parliament: already 100 MPs have met with Catholic parishes and Christian groups through their ‘parliament in your parish’ initiative. They are also running key petitions to our Prime Minister and Chancellor. Jesuit Missions are taking practical action such as by supporting reforestation efforts by communities in Madagascar. The Holy Spirit is moving in these groups as they respond to the call for ecological conversion.

Our Pope, at 84 may not be young, but he is a wise prophet on this question. This man filled with the Holy Spirit is reaching millions. His encyclical, Laudato Si’ – Praise Be – a letter to the whole world, written six years ago, is becoming ever more relevant by the day. This Diocese of Westminster has heard his call and has just committed to seeking carbon neutrality by 2030. We know the Pope’s voice matters: at COP 21 his words moved nations and were key to the agreement there. We pray, his health permitting, he can come to Glasgow and move nations again.

Because this call to ecological conversion needs to spread. Thinking of our government, it is perhaps easy to despair; new oil fields being considered off the Shetlands, a second private jet for ministers. Yet there is hope, hope in this conference in Glasgow, hope that grace will overflow. Our government, our Prime Minister -married in this very chapel a few months ago- the delegates, we pray they are filled with the Holy Spirit at COP and hear the call to ecological conversion.

Conversion too is a theme on this great Feast of the Transfiguration. I resonate especially with St Peter who, on seeing our Lord transfigured ‘brilliantly white’ before him on the mountain turned to Jesus and said: ‘Rabbi … it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah’. It seems he wanted to stay in the presence of our transfigured Lord.

It too is wonderful for us to see the Lord transfigured on this relay. To see him transfigured in each other, hope transfigured in young Christians responding to the call for ecological conversion. For those lucky enough to have taken this relay into the city or who will take it out again, it is wonderful to see our Lord transfigured in creation. I think of the beauty of Devon and Cornwall and the walkers who will cross the Pennines before eventually reaching the Northumberland Coast. It is indeed wonderful to be here with our transfigured Lord.

However like St Peter, we too must come down from the mountain. He went on to experience his own journey of conversion. Denying our Lord three times during the passion, before experiencing the grace and mercy of the resurrection. He lived his vocation taking the Gospel, the Good news, the message of conversion to the ends of his world, to Antioch and Rome.

As we come away from this relay, how will we respond to the call to spread the message of ecological conversion? How will we cooperate with creation to give glory and eternal praise to God? As humanity’s sin against creation and against our creator increases, how will grace overflow in us?

Chris Carling is a Communications Volunteer with Westminster Justice and Peace Commission. He has recently completed a European Social and Political Studies BA at University College London.

LINKS

Ecumenical Climate Service at Westminster Cathedral welcomes COP26 walkers

Young climate campaigners bring message to London on way to COP26 

YCCN Relay welcomed to Diocese with Climate Prayer Service at Westminster Cathedral

YCCN Relay outside Westminster Cathedral – 6th August 2021

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.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p09fsjx5

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/