In Paul Elie’s masterful book The Life You Save May Be Your Own, he chronicles the lives and interactions of four 20th century Catholic writers. As 1963 begins, he turns to a period in the life of Dorothy Day:
In March she had told [Thomas] Merton of her plan to go to Rome in April “with a group from Women Strike for Peace who are foolishly expecting to get an audience. I told them it will probably be with 500 other people but a pilgrimage is a pilgrimage and if we can call attention to all the things the Pope has been saying about peace; that itself is a good.” The plan was all set when Pacem in Terris was issued, and the pilgrims arrived in Rome hoping to present themselves as “the first fruit of his great encyclical.”—and intending “to ask for a more radical condemnation of the instruments of modern warfare.”
…..They crowded in alongside hundreds of other pilgrims for the weekly papal audience. After two hours, the pope emerged, carried aloft in a ceremonial chair, and as he was conveyed to his throne, the name of each group of pilgrims was read over the public address system—each group but Women Strike for Peace. “But then the Pope began to speak,” Day recounted, “and the words that fell from his lips seemed directed to us, to our group, speaking as he did about the ‘Pilgrims for Peace’ who came to him, and his gratitude for their encouragement.” The pope—a peacemaker—was one of them—it felt like a miracle.
Dorothy Day’s fulfilled vision of dozens of people entering St. Peter’s square with cries of “Pacem in Terris!” was the first public demonstration of support of a papal encyclical in church history—get ready for the second.
On June 28, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. over five thousand Catholics, brother and sister Christians, interfaith allies, and others of good will gather at Piazza Farnese in Rome and march to St. Peter’s Square under the banner “One Earth, One Human Family” amid drummers, giant puppets, and kites representing the Holy Spirit. Carrying “leaves” printed with sacred scriptures from the world’s religious traditions, the marchers will deliver the message that the world’s religions are behind Pope Francis, along with many secular people of good will, and they call for a strong climate agreement among the world’s nations. With Catholics from nations most threatened by climate change at the head of the march, marchers hope to be greeted by Pope Francis at his weekly Angelus blessing.
Most of the marchers will be Italians and other Europeans conveyed by public transportation. But the entire world can participate. At noon, on June 28th, wherever your time zone might be, houses of worship are invited to ring their church bells, blow their shofars, sound their gongs—in short, make a joyful noise in thankfulness for Pope Francis’ important moral message, and call attention to the urgency of the U.N. climate talks.
No one group “owns” the march—it’s led by a planning team convened by Our Voices and FOCSIV, the relief and development arm of the Italian Catholic bishops. Partners in Italy can still join in the planning, and endorsements, as the Global Catholic Climate Movement has done, are welcome. Please send any such communications to [email protected].