December 10, Paris – Today we met the French president, François Hollande, to deliver the 900,000 signatures of our Catholic Climate Petition in coalition with other faith groups. This was a follow up of the November 28 interfaith event with Christiana Figueres, who is the United Nations climate chief. Collectively, we delivered a total of 1,833,973 signatures. An impressive amount of faithful demanding Climate Justice!
The French government presides the COP21 Climate Summit, so by delivering these petition signatures to president Hollande we made our voices heard by the highest political authority of the climate negotiations. We met Hollande in the Elysee Palace, represented by prominent faith leaders from the four faith-based networks that collaborated in this campaign: our GCCM movement, the ACT Alliance (coalition of Protestant groups), Religions for Peace and Our Voices.
At the ceremony, François Hollande thanked the group, saying he was pleased to receive them “just a few hours before the end of the climate conference”. “We must protect the planet… Through the petitions, through the walks and pilgrimages, you have committed to defend life,” he said. The President then spoke of the importance of bringing together religious leaders of all faiths to protect the world’s “common heritage”. He said: “It is necessary that all citizens engage and mobilise, like you have done. Your example has paved the way, through all the walks and pilgrimages, together with these petitions. I hope the petitions will have as much influence as possible while we’re still negotiating the agreement. Your message, your petitions, must be heard, and this voice you’re bringing, must be listened to.”
The spokesperson of our movement was Msgr. Leonardo Steiner, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Brazil and Auxiliary Bishop of Brasilia, who has been a key promoter of the GCCM campaign in Brazil. In his speech, on behalf of the Catholic community, he said: “As people of faith, we are extremely pleased to meet you today to deliver these petition signatures and demand climate justice. We are extremely concerned about the climate crisis. But we know that all is not lost. As Pope Francis said in his encyclical, ‘Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.'”
We were blessed to be joined by Yeb Saño, the former Filipino climate negotiator that gained world prominence in 2013 when he broke into tears in the UN climate negotiations asking for urgent climate action. Yeb recently led the People’s Pilgrimage from the Vatican to Paris, and has been an active GCCM member promoting our petition in the Philippines. He brought with him a pile of petition sheets with over 30,000 Filipino signatures, to illustrate the immense amount of faithful that demand climate justice.
“As a way to express faith communities’ deep sense of urgency regarding the climate crisis, we embarked on pilgrimages from all over the world and many pilgrims walked to Paris from different countries, spreading hope for the future of humanity and hope for COP21, carrying the message of climate justice and our solidarity as one human family”, said Yeb.
This was the epilogue of our COP21 petition campaign, an amazing mobilization effort through which we collected 900,000 signatures in 7 months (the campaign will continue in 2016, for Catholics to put pressure on national and subnational governments). Catholic communities, parishes, schools, youth groups, families, have mobilized as never before for climate justice (see pictures from the campaign around the world). This was a powerful message from the grassroots, making clear that the Catholic community stands with Pope Francis asking for bold action to tackle the climate crisis.
With about 24 hours left before the COP21 officially ends, let’s pray to deliver a fair and transformative agreement that can advance the climate justice we demand. Today truly was a beautiful testimony about how humanity can come together to overcome the challenges we face.
Let’s pray for for governments to unite and collaborate as faith communities did this morning. Let’s #pray4cop21.
Thanks for being part of our movement!
You can also watch the video-recording of the event.