Caring for the planet: Ecumenical rally to mark Earth Day

Thousands of Catholics and members of other religious faiths are expected at Rizal Park on Saturday (April 22) “to manifest their unity to protect God’s creation,” as part of this year’s Earth Day celebration.

The gathering, an ecumenical and interfaith event dubbed the “Earth Day Laudato Si Village,” hopes to promote environmental awareness and stewardship as stated in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si (Praise Be to You),” which exhorted “every person living on this planet … to care for (our) common home.”

“This (event) offers a well-timed opportunity for all of us to gather together and manifest our unity to protect God’s creation from acts of apathy, heartlessness and greed that contribute to climate change and harm human life and dignity,” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said in a statement.

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The celebration begins with a “Walk for Mercy2Earth” at 6 a.m., with participants walking to the Lapu-Lapu Monument from four different starting points: the Plaza Mexico ferry station in Intramuros, Mabini Street corner Padre Faura in Ermita, Pope Pius Center on United Nations Avenue and Plaza Miranda in Quiapo.

Paris Agreement

A “Breakfast Agape” follows, with the faithful taking part in an indigenous “Prayer for the Creation.” Fr. Ricardo Valencia of the Environment and Disaster Response Ministry will then share the Pope’s call to “acts of mercy for the common home.”

Speakers include Climate Change Commission (CCC) head, Commissioner Frances Veronica Victorio, who will discuss the Paris Agreement and the country’s obligations under the treaty, and former Commissioner Yeb Saño, who will share the experiences of his team that once walked from Manila to Tacloban in 2014 to bring attention to the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan).

Another speaker was expected to talk about the ecological use and maintenance of public parks in response to the Paris Agreement.

Representatives from parishes, schools, religious groups and private organizations will then sign the “Laudato Si” manifesto as a declaration of their commitment to avoid using fossil fuels and divest from dirty or destructive industries, technologies and projects.

As well, workshops and exhibits will be conducted from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to promote various solutions to the climate crisis and practical measures to prevent and reduce wastes and emissions.

Drug surrenderers

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The workshops will also teach livelihood programs and skills to the unemployed and drug surrenderers from different parishes.

The Earth Day celebration comes a day before the Divine Mercy Sunday on April 23, Tagle said.

“Our gathering falls on the day when the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, enters into force in the Philippines. This makes our celebration even more historic and timely,” the Manila archbishop added.

The event was organized by the Archdiocese of Manila, CCC,  Metro Manila Development Authority, National Park Development Committee, United Recyclers Organization of the Philippines, Climate Reality Project,  EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, City of Manila, Catholic Stewards of Creation Inc., Radyo Veritas and Villar Sipag Foundation.

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