On Saturday, December 10th, participants in the great March for Biodiversity and Human rights were rallying on Parc Avenue when an unusual-looking figure arrived. It was a giant smiling puppet in a monk's habit with a rope for a belt... Who could it be? Ah, yes! It was St. Francis of Assisi, straight from his parish in Mercier-Est! He was carrying a placard with the message: "Let’s protect our mother earth." In the spirit of the great Franciscan family and of the Pope who adopted the saint’s name, along with brothers and sisters from Development and Peace, the Social Action Office and the Laudato Si Movement, he brought up the rear of the march, lending his support and blessing to efforts to protect biodiversity on the part of civil society and national delegations. His presence provoked various reactions along the way: some of distrust, but more of joy and gratitude, particularly from children; from a lady member of the Franciscan laity; from fans of l’Évangile en papier (the seventies program on Radio-Canada); and from a British journalist who was reminded of his trip to Assisi. Saint Francis listened to the speeches of the Indigenous and the organizers, applauding these people who had braved the cold to come out and loudly proclaim their love for the lands under their nations’ protection, and their deep desire for justice.
Earlier, at 7:30 in the morning, members of the Social Action Office and some who had come from far away to attend the COP15 began the day by joining the faithful at Mass in the Cathedral, with Bishop Alain Faubert presiding. His homily helped rekindle hopefulness, celebrating the prophets, particularly identifying those of today, and discussing COP15 on biodiversity. Two participants presented the Prayers of the Faithful. The Canticle of Creation opened the liturgy of the Eucharist , symbolizing the Lord's unbreakable covenant with humanity and with the created universe. The celebration is available for viewing on the diocesan YouTube channel.
The small group then shared breakfast with Bishop Faubert. Once finished, they busied themselves creating signs along with others from civil society and then went off to join the march.
The Laudato Si Movement was represented at both the Mass and the walk for Biodiversity by by Anna Johnson (North America), who was visiting from Seattle, Agnes Richard (Canada) and Caroline Kiiru from Kenya (International). One member of the inter-religious delegation, Amy Echeverria, had worked to gain authorization for the first officially recognized interreligious delegation to a Conference of the Parties to a UN treaty: this COP15-Biodiversity in Montreal. Ms. Echeverria serves as the International Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Coordinator for Columban Missionaries and Co-coordinator of the Ecology Taskforce of the Vatican COVID-19 Commission. Joe Gunn represented the (Canadian) Joint Ecological Ministry (JEM). Kim Gottfried Piché and Louise Royer of the Social Action Office were delighted to welcome them all.
You can follow the delegation at: https://www.biodiversity.faith/events. On Dec 12, members have met the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Ms. Elizabeth Mrema. There are inter-religious events all week at the Faith Pavilion at Place Québec in the Palais des Congrès that authorized participants can attend or alternatively, you can participate in events online.
COP15 needs the prayers of the faithful! Novalis, which publishes three weekly prayer intentions reflecting current events, has chosen this one for the third Sunday of Advent:
“From December 7 to 19, Montreal is hosting the COP15, which will endeavour to adopt a new global framework for improving the preservation of biodiversity. In order to accomplish this, the record number of countries participating must learn their lessons from the failures of the previous game plan.
For the international leaders gathered to discuss the issues of biodiversity: that the care of our common home may be their priority, let us pray.” – Come, Lord, and save us!