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Green Pilgrimage Network more than doubles in size to 28 members

July 29, 2013:

At an extraordinary meeting in Trondheim this weekend 16 important pilgrim cities and places – including Santiago de Compostela, Bethlehem, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Mexico City – committed to become greener, joining 12 founding pilgrim cities and places in this vision.

The Green Pilgrimage Network meeting, from 26 to 28 July, just before the St Olav’s Festival brought thousands of pilgrims to Trondheim, was an opportunity for:

• 16 new pilgrim places (including Bethlehem, Nanded, Santiago de Compostela and Rishikesh and Mexico City’s Shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe, with 20 million pilgrims a year) to join the initial 11 founding members.

• Some 90 religious and secular leaders from China, Japan, India, Palestine, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Armenia and many European pilgrim places including Vadstena Sweden, St Albans, Norwich, Iona, Luss and Canterbury in the UK, Santiago de Compostela to discuss their successes – and failures – on the long and difficult pathway to becoming more sustainable.

• A first ever statement on environmental responsibility the Confucian tradition of China

• The chance for Trondheim to twin with Bethlehem as two green pilgrim cities.

• Secular and religious decision-makers to compare examples of best practice, and leverage their position as holy places to get more funding towards improving the environment and helping their millions of pilgrims be positive rather than negative impacts on the earth.

See the Green Pilgrimage Network meetingpage for the timetable and the GPN FAQ for more details and examples of concrete action.

The conference was co-hosted by Trondheim Nidaros Diocese, Trondheim Municipality, the National Pilgrim Centre and the UK Based international Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) which started this process in 2009.

Successful Stories

The many successful stories from founding members include:

• Amritsar, holy city of the Sikhs, relaunching its founders day in July as an annual chance to clean up the city, plant thousands of trees including lining the main, busy, dirty GT road with saplings, and raise awareness among the community.

• Tiger reserves in India (where up to 2 million pilgrims can pass on the way to major annual festivals) waking up to their ability to change the negative impact on the environment and animals

• Scottish shrines and paths joining together with local government to get environmental funding because of the pilgrims who pass, and to breathe life into poorer communities by bringing pilgrim trails through them.

Link here for more action, and here e for the general Green Pilgrimage Network page.

Why Green Pilgrimage?

Worldwide it is estimated that at least 200 million pilgrimages take place each year. And 2013 is a special year with an extra 100 million pilgrims attending the 12-yearly Kumbh Mela in India in January and February.

Pilgrimage is a time for people to assess their lives and their paths, and with so many people taking part every year the potential of environmental work within this area is enormous; UNDP has described this kind of movement as “potentially the world’s largest civil society movement on climate change”.

Trondheim has already shown itself to be a model of ecological planning and action, and by hosting the second inaugural meeting of the Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN), it is consolidating its position as a leading promoter of environmental action.


The 500 Confucian temples in China, through their formal organization, the International Confucian Environmental Alliance (ICEA) will over the next year discuss how to be green pilgrimage sites – through looking at their food sourcing, green power, transport, rubbish collection, etc. More details of this historical meeting in Norway are here. And their statement on the environment, authored by one of the most senior Confucian scholars, Professor Tu Wei-ming, can be read here.


This month many thousands of pilgrims went missing after floods in Uttarkhand province where the holy city of Rishikesh is sited. The day before the meeting around 80 pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela for the Feastday of St James died in a train crash a few miles before arriving in the city.

“We know that we need not only to make pilgrimage gentle to the earth, but gentle to the pilgrims as well,” said ARC’s secretary general Martin Palmer. 

“It has happened for millennia that people will go to holy places as part of their spiritual journey in life. Our role is to help the cities and sacred places make it as safe and environmentally positive as possible,” said director of the National Pilgrimage Centre of Norway, Berit Lånke.


The founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network are Amritsar, Assisi, Etchmiadzin, Haifa, Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines, Japan) Kano, Louguan, Luss, St Albans, St Pishoy Monastery and Trondheim. 

Those that joined this week are: Santiago de Compostela; Canterbury; Iona; Norwich Cathedral; Nanded and Takhat Sri Hazur Sahib; Puri; Rajaji and Ranthambore Tiger Reserves in India (which attract millions of pilgrims to the temples in or near them); Rishikesh, Ujjain, Varanasi, Mexico City (and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe); Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Lower Jordan River Project; Bethlehem; Matale; Vadstena.



Green Pilgrimage Network

Green Pilgrimage Network FAQ

Trondheim meeting

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