"Green" Pilgrims Reach Journey's End
Church in Europe Emphasizes Commitment to Creation
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By Chiara Santomiero
ROME, SEPT. 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A group of some 50 pilgrims concluded the so-called green pilgrimage Sunday, reaching their destination at the Mariazell Shrine in Austria, and affirming principles about respect for creation found in the patrimony of the Church.
A final message from the pilgrims pointed to six key principles so as to "renew the commitment to protect creation," as the theme of the pilgrimage encouraged.
The five-day journey, sponsored by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), carried the pilgrims by boat, train and foot through Hungary, Slovakia and Austria.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, met the pilgrims in Slovakia on the second full day of their journey. In his address to them, he said, "In mankind’s relationship with creation we must move as far from being 'exploitative' or exercising 'unconditional dominion' as is possible. The true meaning of exercising dominion, in the context of the Book of Genesis, should not be seen as simply 'exercising authority' but rather 'being responsible.'"
ZENIT spoke with some of the bishops and others who participated in the event. Auxiliary Bishop Manuel da Silva Rodrigues Linda of Braga, Portugal, affirmed that Christians should be more aware of their responsibility for the environment.
"Conversion to an ecological mentality and attitude is born from conversion to God," he proposed "[...] Ours is a creator God, who wills the life of his creatures and does not will to make them die."
"When we become aware that together with all creatures we inhabit the same dwelling, a common house, it will no longer please us to see defacement and damage around us," Bishop Rodrigues Linda said. "A change of mentality begins from here, which must lead to a conversion of heart. Those who think only of profit will never undertake the road to conversion."
Archbishop Andre-Joseph (Mutien) Leonard of Malines-Brussels, Belgium, cautioned, however, that the human person must be at the center of ecological concerns.
"The danger of the environmental movement is to forget the central place of the human person, to be concerned about the future of all the animal species and, at times, to leave aside the human person," he said.
Rather, the president of the Belgium Conference of Bishops emphasized the importance of bringing "together in one concern the natural environment and the human person." It is a subject that "unites philosophical and theological aspects to scientific profiles, which must then be translated into very practical attitudes," he proposed.
"I myself, after taking part in meetings on the subject of safeguarding creation, decided to buy an ecological car that consumes little, and I learned to be attentive to little things which, however, have a great impact, such as using less water or taking the train instead of the car or using the bicycle more," recounted the archbishop.
The pilgrims' final message notes that the work of safeguarding creation is an ecumenical concern.
"It is a field of collaboration that is not only ecumenical but that concerns every man of good will," noted Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria, who celebrated the closing Mass for the pilgrimage.
He welcomed the fact that there are people of other religions or no religion who "harbor a great sense of responsibility for the future, toward the next generations and for the common good that has been given to us in creation."
"If it isn't possible to share everything, we can, however, carry out many activities together to safeguard the environment," the cardinal affirmed. "This is the great vision of Blessed John XXIII's 'Pacem in terris,' who addressed his appeal to all men of good will."
Father Duarte da Cunha, secretary-general of the CCEE, said the success of an initiative like the "green" pilgrimage cannot be measured "according to the logic of the world, which calls for immediate results."
"Our work," he said, "is to plant seeds that will bear fruits with the grace of God and the responsibility of everyone."
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On the Net:
Final message: www.ccee.ch/umwelt/Index_EN.html