Westminster Cathedral Ecumenical Climate Service welcomes COP26 walkers

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Father Dominic Robinson SJ with activists at the cathedral – ICN / JS

Members of the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN), on a G7 pilgrimage from June in Cornwall to the November COP26 in Glasgow, have been very well received by churches in and around London during their visit in recent days. Services and meetings at St Paul’s Cathedral – where they were hosted 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 rally for action, the prayer and reflection in Westminster Cathedral.

As around 100 gathered in Westminster Cathedral Square on Friday afternoon, waiting to enter, queues for photos showed both Catholic and ecumenical support for the pilgrimage. Four diocesan priests from Westminster attended, including the current President of Westminster Justice and Peace, Father Dominic Robinson SJ, and the former, Father Joe Ryan. Alongside the YCCN banners were Westminster Justice and Peace, CAFOD, Caritas, Pax Christi, Jesuit Mission, Colomban JPIC and ARocha. “What do we want? Climate justice! echoed around Victoria.

When we went down to the Chapel of the Lady, we saw that the YCCN boat had been installed on the altar. The relay is accompanied throughout the course by this boat whose sail carries fabrics from places threatened by the climate – pointing to the hundreds of millions of people whose lives are threatened by the rise in sea level, cyclones and other climate-related disasters. It was well placed next to the decoration of the chapel where above the altar is the Tree of Life (the Cross) and from it spring fountains of living water; its branches produce vines and a 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. The Pilgrims are calling on the government to meet and exceed its own climate finance commitments, restore the original aid budget and write off the debts of poor countries. The pilgrims are also seeking to publicize COP26 and urged participants to spread the word “watch out for us and we would like as many people as possible to join us”. They were applauded as they stepped down amid a lively and joyful spirit in the very chapel where Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the main target of climate lobbying – married at the end of May.

After a prayer of thanks, taken from the song of the three young men in the furnace of the Book of Daniel, a reflection on “ecological conversion” was given by Chris Carling, student and volunteer of Westminster Justice and Peace. He felt that the ecological conversion called for in Laudati Si ‘is a process that lasts a lifetime. Despite challenges such as melting ice caps and polluting the oceans with plastic, “grace will spill over from the YCCN.” Then a reflection from Pope Francis calling everyone to “be the guardian of our common home” and to protect all of God’s creation, including other species.

We said together the final prayer of CAFOD:

“Inspire us to take care of the environment:

help rebuild lives and communities;

share the sorrows and anguish, the joys and the hopes of all your people,

so that all your creation may flourish. Amen.

The pilgrimage was very successful in drawing attention to the presence of God in the world, especially the people and places that are the first victims of the climate crisis. Anglican Ordinary Hannah Malcom based her Saturday morning reflection on the Thought for the Day on Radio 4. Young people traveled through Truro, Exeter, Bristol, Reading and London, enthusiastically received and offered hospitality by churches in all faiths, and are now heading north towards Glasgow.

Colette Joyce concluded the service by telling the pilgrims: “you are doing a wonderful job and we will follow you to the end”. No more applause!

CONNECTIONS

YCCN – www.yccn.uk/

Keywords: COP26, YCCN, Young Christian Climate Network, Westminster Cathedral

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