The Journey Continues

December 18, 2018

On pilgrimage

The Catholic Pilgrimage has completed its 1,500-kilometer journey through sunshine, rain, and snow, across meadows and mountaintops, from coastal towns to historic cities. Starting in St. Peter’s Square, the pilgrims walked over the course of three months to Katowice, Poland, the site of this year’s COP24 climate talks.  The pilgrims arrived at the end of their road, but the journey is far from over.

Pilgrims welcomed at International Mass

Led by Yeb Saño and survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed thousands of people and was linked to climate change, the pilgrimage shared a personal message of witness. Pilgrims were welcomed by political and religious leaders along the way.

  • They spoke with the Austrian President, Alexander Van der Bellen, who accompanied them on their walk as they entered the city of Vienna. In Katowice, they presented prayer ribbons collected along their journey to UNFCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.
  • They had opportunities to share a press conference with Italian environment minister Sergio Costa and to discuss climate issues with a Slovenian environment agency representative, Mojca Dolnar.
  • They received a special blessing from Archbishop Crepaldi in Trieste and were welcomed by Archbishop Skworc at an international mass on the sidelines of COP24.

Pilgrims with UNFCCC leader Patricia Espinosa

Their journey captured the attention of local and international audiences. The pilgrims shared their stories through interviews with newspapers, radio shows, podcasts, and television news, Around the world, news outlets covered the story, from the New York Times to Vatican News to Poland’s largest morning talk show.  The pilgrimage also resounded on social media, from Leondardo DiCaprio’s Instagram post to the Patricia Espinosa’s tweet.  An interview with pilgrim Joana Sustento was broadcast live by the UNFCCC and pilgrim AG Saño’s passionate speech at the COP24 Climate March was captured on video.

Welcomed by archbishop

The pilgrims were supported by an incredible network of communities, schools, parishes, and people. They were showered with hospitality everywhere they went, from the cathedrals of Italy to the homes of their host families in Poland. Their experiences of welcome have shown a shared desire to care for one another and our common home, a desire which transcends language, culture, and citizenship.

Dinner with pilgrims and hosts

The pilgrims made an emotional arrival into Katowice, overwhelmed by the depth of their shared experiences. They walked the streets of the city carrying prayers collected during their journey. They also remembered their fellow pilgrim, Alan Burns, whose sudden passing in Slovenia gave greater meaning to their mission as they walked the rest of the journey in his honor, carrying his shoes all the way to Katowice.

Albert Burns on pilgrimage

Their days at COP24 were filled with events from climate rallies and conferences to interviews and speaking engagements. The pilgrims exchanged stories and ideas with fellow climate advocates, pilgrims, and religious groups, all of whom were brought together by the desire to find solutions to the climate crisis.

pilgrims on the trail

Jane Mellett summed up the spirit of their journey when she said to fellow pilgrim Joana Sustento, “I will carry your story in my work and my life forever.” The Climate Pilgrimage has come to an end, and the pilgrims have carried the cry of creation across 1,500 kilometers, six countries, and 70 cities. But for the pilgrims, and for all who share their mission, the journey will continue even as the Climate Pilgrimage ends. Let us not tire from walking the way together, carrying the call for climate justice in our hearts and our lives.

mural made by the climate pilgrims