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Special handbook aims to help Rio cope with three million pilgrims

January 29, 2013:

Young people at the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro.

Around three million people are expected to arrive in Brazil from July 23-28, 2013. They will be Catholic pilgrims attending this year's World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro where they will experience a week of meetings, worship, music and reconciliation opportunities and will be addressed by Pope Benedict XVI.

In preparation for this enormous gathering a special Green Pilgrimage Network handbook has been prepared that outlines the Catholic theology underpinning the Church's commitment to nature and the environment. The handbook offers advice and information intended to help organisers and pilgrims alike reduce the likely negative environmental impact to the Rio area of so many additional people and, with a little adaptation, it would be just as relevant and useful to other Catholic pilgrimage sites around the world.

The Catholic Church has long recognised the need for the faithful to address the needs of the environment: in his 1990 message for World Peace Day Pope John Paul II observed that "the gravity of the ecological situation reveals how deep is the human moral crisis." and Pope Benedict XV! himself has said that the "care of water resources and attention to climate change are matters of grave importance fro the entire human family" (St Peter's Square, September 5, 2007). In this they are following in the footsteps of St Francis, described in the handbook as: 'St Francis, the Catholic friar who believed God is present in all His creation and that we are duty bound to show kindness and respect in our treatment of the natural world.' (Introduction to GPN Catholic Handbook p2). His shrine at Assisi, Italy was one the first pilgrimage sites to join the GPN in 2011.

The handbook offers many examples of religion-inspired environmentally-friendly actions from the recent past including this by the Catholic Church itself:

In 2002 Conservation International forged a partnership with the Catholic Church in Colombia to save two species on the verge of extinction – the yellow-eared parrot and the Quindio wax palm. "The goal was to end the use of millions of wax palm fronds in Palm Sunday services here and in the United States, a practice that was killing the trees and destroying the parrots’ sole habitat." When the word got out, people turned to ordinary palms rather than rare ones and priests organized blessings of seedlings in nurseries. By 2007 the yellow eared parrot population was 660 – an increase from 81 in 2002. (GPN Catholic Handbook p9)

The Green Pilgrimage Network Catholic Handbook is available in English, Spanish and Portuguesetranslations.

Click Background information on the Green Pilgrimage Network .

Other useful links

Find out more about World Youth Day here.

For more information about Christian ecological teachings click here.

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What does Christianity teach about ecology?
The basic environmental beliefs of Christianity.
Green pilgrimage network members
The vision is of pilgrims on all continents and the pilgrim cities that receive them, leaving a positive footprint on the Earth
Assisi - Green Pilgrimage Network
Information about the sacred site of Assisi and ways in which the religious and civil authorities are making it a green pilgrimage destination.