Youth of the Young Christian Climate Network, 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, Lambeth Palace, St Martin in the Fields and St James Piccadilly included a gathering for action, prayer, and reflection in Westminster Cathedral on Friday 6th August.
As around 80 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. Ellen Teague of Columban JPIC and Jack Edwards, a recent Columban Faith in Action volunteer, were there. 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.
We heard Westminster Justice and Peace welcome the congregation, followed by testimonies from 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”. 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 Laudato Si’ is a process that lasts a lifetime. Then a reflection from Pope Francis calling on each person to “be a guardian of our common home.”
And marking Hiroshima Day
Earlier the same day, Ellen Teague of Columban JPIC joined Pax Christi’s two-hour prayer vigil for peace and an information stall on the steps on Westminster Cathedral, commemorating the 76th anniversary of the nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima, and to draw attention to the continuing effects of nuclear weapons and their costs in the world today. Pax Christi members displayed posters such as ‘A world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary’ – and offering prayer cards to cathedral visitors. Pax Christi is calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and asking the UK Government to become a signatory to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which has now been ratified by the required 50 states for it to enter into force. In breach of international agreements, the UK Government is planning to expand the British nuclear arsenal.
The international Catholic peace organisation is calling for a world of peace, free from the fear of nuclear annihilation. 6th August 1945 saw the first atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima which left more than 140,000 people dead. Many of those who survived have suffered from leukaemia, cancer, or other terrible side effects from the radiation in the years and decades that have followed. Another vigil will be held on Monday 9th August to commemorate the second nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on the city of Nagasaki, where 80,000 people died. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki detonated in Urakami only 500 metres (1640 ft) from the Urakami Catholic Cathedral, completely destroying it. As the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (15th August) was near, Mass was held on the day and was well attended. The resultant collapse and heat-wave cindered and buried all those present at the Cathedral Mass.