Today, Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News and I headed off to ’24 Hours for the Climate’, a global vigil for Catholics and people of faith to pray and advocate for the success of COP26, which is roughly halfway through. It was hosted at St Aloysius Jesuit Parish in Glasgow, but most people participated through a livestream on the internet. Among the organisers were the Missionary Society of St Columban, Justice and Peace Scotland, CAFOD, SCIAF, Pax Christi International, Jesuit Missions, Don Bosco Green Alliance and Religious of the Assumption. Around 50 young people were involved at the parish, organised by the Columbans and CAFOD. This was very appropriate since today was Youth Day at the summit.
Video material was presented at the vigil from partners internationally and in the UK. Participants were invited to write messages that would be delivered to COP26 negotiators, calling on them: “to agree to stop all fossil fuel extraction by 2040, protect and restore ecosystems, and financially support developing countries as they adapt to climate change.”
Every hour, a prayer experience themed around God’s creation and ecological spirituality and the story of a community impacted by climate change was broadcast. In the first few hours participants experienced prayer with Assumption Sisters, a Laudato Si’ Liturgical Dance from the Philippines, a ‘River Guardians’ presentation from a CAFOD partner in Colombia, a Prayer for Creation and Myanmar by Catholic Student Action in Myitkyina Diocese, and a climate reflection from Columban missionaries in Chile and Peru. Of course, teachings from Pope Francis featured.
“We need to continue holding leaders accountable for their actions. We cannot keep quiet about climate injustice. Three things should stay with us as we continue to organise and mobilise - Faith, Hope and Love.”
In the afternoon Glasgow Churches Together presented ‘Wisdom from the Global South’ and the Glasgow Catholic Worker highlighted their regular witness against nuclear weapons at nearby Faslane Nuclear Base. ‘Growing Our Future’ was presented by Jesuit Missions. Evening prayer was led by CAFOD and Columban International Youth Encounter. During the night, participants experienced ‘Praying for a climate of peace’ with Pax Christi of England and Wales and ‘Voices from the margins’ from EcoJesuits in the Philippines. A Typhoon Hainan survivor spoke about ‘Fossil fuel companies killed my family’ and Columban eco-theologian Fr Sean McDonagh gave an interview, ‘Climate Change and the Churches’.
Jo and I spent the afternoon at the parish and participated in an Eco-Stations of the Cross which was filmed and then broadcast during the night. Of course, it wasn’t nighttime everywhere and it was exciting to see a Columban team in El Paso, on the US/Mexico border, tweeting a photo of them sitting in front of a screen watching the vigil. Columbans in Australia participated too. The ‘Stations’, led by James Trewby, the Columban Education Worker, and Danny Sweeney of Justice and Peace Scotland, were intensely moving. Danny sang at regular intervals the haunting refrain, ‘If the field are parched – have mercy’ by Chris Juby. (see Link below) For Station 13, where the body of Jesus is taken down from the Cross, we prayed: ‘O God who makes all things new, help us hold on to our faith, hope and love when we feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the daunting challenge of the ecological crisis.’
It was interesting that similar thoughts were echoed this afternoon by 24-year-old Ugandan climate champion Vanessa Nakate. Speaking at a huge youth march and rally through Glasgow she said: “We need to continue holding leaders accountable for their actions. We cannot keep quiet about climate injustice. Three things should stay with us as we continue to organise and mobilise – Faith, Hope and Love.”
Tomorrow will see even bigger marches throughout the world. Columbans in the Pacific archipelago of Fiji reported that: “we have Catholic University Students from many campuses marching tomorrow in support of COP26, organised by our Mission Office, and the Archbishop will be giving a keynote address.”
There is episcopal involvement here too. The vigil will conclude tomorrow morning with a Mass celebrated by Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, President of Scotland Justice and Peace, with the homily delivered by Bishop John Arnold of Salford, Lead Bishop for the Environment in England and Wales. We will then be blessed and sent forth for the Glasgow march. Hundreds of thousands are expected in Glasgow and London.