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Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis’ call for climate action

A group of marchers with a banner saying, "Thank you Pope Francis."
Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis' call for climate action in June 2015. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell
A group of marchers with a banner saying, "Thank you Pope Francis."

Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis’ call for climate action. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

ROME (RNS) Religious leaders from across the globe led a “Many Faiths — One Planet” march to the Vatican on Sunday (June 28), to show their support of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking environmental encyclical.

Organizers estimated a crowd of 5,000 people reached St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the pontiff’s tough stance on climate change, after parading through Rome under a canopy of painted banners.

The event came 10 days after the release of Francis’ encyclical, in which he rallied against rich nations for their feeble response to climate change. The letter served as a rallying cry to faith groups and environmental organizers, uniting them ahead of a U.N. summit in December at which leaders are due to decide on climate change action.

A group of marchers with a banner reading "Many Faiths, One Planet."

Thousands march in Rome to show support for Pope Francis’ climate encyclical. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

The environment will stay at the top of the Vatican agenda this week, as the Holy See hosts a high-level conference examining the papal letter.

The popularity of Francis’ call to action was visible in the crowds marching through Rome on Sunday, aiming to further raise the profile of the pontiff’s environmental campaign.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director GreenFaith, a N.J.-based interfaith organization that trains people to be environmental leaders, said he saw the march as an opportunity to appeal to politicians.

“We want to show that there’s a spontaneous expression of support from people of all different faiths, for the message of the encyclical. We want to call for climate action from world leaders — they need to do their job.”

The interfaith element of the pope’s environmental message was reflected in the diverse range of religious leaders present.

Rabbi Lawrence Troster of New Jersey said the march was one of the most diverse in his 30 years of environmental campaigning.

“It just shows that despite our differences we can come together on this universal human crisis,” he said. “I think that the pope addressed the encyclical to people from the whole earth and so many of the things that he said resonate within my Jewish faith.”

Nana Firman, an Indonesian Muslim based in California, said she wanted the pope’s message to be carried by those of her own faith.

Rabbi Lawrence Troster, from New Jersey, addresses marchers outside the French embassy in central Rome (Piazza Farnese) during a “Many Faiths - One Planet” march to the Vatican on June 28, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

Rabbi Lawrence Troster, from New Jersey, addresses marchers outside the French embassy in central Rome during a “Many Faiths — One Planet” march to the Vatican on June 28, 2015. Religion News Service photo by Rosie Scammell

“Based on my tradition in Islam, taking care of the earth is just part of worship,” she said.

“Muslim leaders have to step up and do something, engage with world leaders to make a decision that we are going to have a future for the next generation,” she added.

While Catholics and other faith groups made up a large part of the march, secular organizations also had a strong presence. Giuseppe Onufrio, executive director of Greenpeace Italy, welcomed the pope’s intervention as “a very important moral endorsement” of the group’s campaigning.

“Greenpeace has for years said we have an ethical issue at the center of climate change,” he said. “The pope’s message is welcome because it’s a moral message that asks everyone to take a position. We are very happy to have read the encyclical as a turning point for the climate debate worldwide.”

YS/AMB END SCAMMELL

About the author

Rosie Scammell

Rosie Scammell is a British journalist with extensive experience reporting for leading international news organizations. She has been based in Italy since 2012 and covers the Vatican for RNS.

9 Comments

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  • I think Pope Francis has awakened today to a very new and very real Climate Change, which probably has him sitting up straight in his chair. First Ireland, now the USA has given God Almighty the proverbial finger. My suspicion is if he has been cautious with the Ireland announcement, he will be exhibiting a very different tone going forward. I anxiously await his response.

  • The encyclical is, as usual with Pope Francis’ pronouncements, too much and not enough. I have scanned quite closely its text looking for the discussion of the relationship between humans and animals. The encyclical denounces in strong terms the “tyranny over creation” (paragraph 200) and in several places either corrects the extreme interpretation of Genesis 1:28 or speaks about injustices against animals (for example, paragraphs 92 and 139).

    I was hoping for a mention of the obscene evil of industrial farming (which cannot be ignored by the self-proclaimed “religion of love” as it is not ignored by Buddhism, the religion of compassion) and of some encouragement of vegetarianism/veganism but I couldn’t find any. The pope talks about air conditioning but not about billions of animals born solely in order to die. However, this glaring omission is not completely unexpected. The Catholics will still pray to the Lamb of God at the Mass and then go home to happily eat a leg of lamb…

  • “First Ireland, now the USA has given God Almighty the proverbial finger.”

    Well, there’s the view of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. The major Christian, Jewish and other denominations that are marrying same gender couples now were denied their right to practice their religion freely until the US Supreme Court ruling of June 26, 2015:

    Affirming Pentecostal Church International
    Alliance of Christian Churches
    Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Community of Christ
    Conservative Judaism
    Ecumenical Catholic Church
    Ecumenical Catholic Communion
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Anglican Church In America
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
    Inclusive Orthodox Church
    Moravian Church Northern Province
    Metropolitan Community Church
    Old Catholic Church
    Presbyterian Church USA
    Progressive Christian…

  • And:

    Reconciling Pentecostals International
    Reconstructionist Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ
    Unity Church

    These denominations all agree with modern Biblical scholars, who have proven the Bible was intentionally mistranslated relatively recently to provide “Biblical cover” for rising levels of homophobia.

  • “The Catholics will still pray to the Lamb of God at the Mass and then go home to happily eat a leg of lamb…”

    You do know that we eat the Lamb of God at Mass as well, right?

    Also, since Jesus ate animals during His time on Earth, it’d be a bit much for Pope Francis to say that it is sinful all of a sudden, don’t you think?

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