The Green Pilgrimage Network was launched at Assisi at ARC's Sacred Land Celebration on October 31-November 2, 2011. For a fuller description of the launch, including details of green initiatives by the founder members of the network, click here. For background information on Assisi, the Green Pilgrimage Network and faith action on the environment, read on.
Video: The Canticle of the Creatures - A prayer by St Francis of Assisi
HRH Princess Michael of Kent guest of honour at ARC's Assisi event
ARC formally launched the Green Pilgrimage Network, in Assisi, Italy, on October 31-November 4, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent who had kindly agreed to attend as guest of honour in place of the organisation's founder HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT, who was unfortunately unwell and able to travel to Italy as planned.
Ads well as launching this important new initiative, the Assisi event celebrated 25 years of faith action on the environment - much of which prompted by the first gathering of faith leaders at Assisi in 1986 - and the growing recognition of the pivotal role of religions in protecting the natural world.
The Green Pilgrimage Network is the first major, co-ordinated movement aimed at greening pilgrimage - still the reason for the world's biggest travel events. The idea of Green Pilgrimage is to ensure the pilgrim’s impact upon the world’s sacred places is as ecological as possible, and that the pilgrim's physical experience matches their spiritual hopes and intentions.
Ten faith groups had nominated pilgrim cities to become founding members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, ranging from Louguan in China for Daoists to Trondheim in Norway for Lutheran Christians.
25 years of faith action on the environment
The 2011 Assisi meeting marked, almost to the day, 25 years since faith leaders first gathered at Assisi at the invitation of Prince Philip and Martin Palmer (now ARC Secretary-General).
That earlier event, itself held to celebrate WWF International's 25th anniversary, was the first time leaders of five major world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism - had met to discuss discuss how their faiths could help save the natural world.
It led to the first faith statements on the environment, made by each of the five faiths, which not only launched hundreds of thousands of faith environmental projects over the next few years but brought about a radical change in the role of faiths and environmental protection.
Thanks to that first Assisi event, every major religion now takes the environment seriously, has developed theologies on the environment or natural world, and is involved in a host of environmental projects. Today, the world's religions are increasingly recognised as playing a major role in protecting the natural world.
As it celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2011, WWF International also joined ARC at Assisi, along with colleagues from WWF UK, WWF Italy and WWF USA.
The ancient and beautiful city of Assisi was a wonderful place to launch the Green Pilgrimage Network. As the birthplace of the Catholic Saint of Ecology, St Francis (1181-1226) it has been a pilgrimage centre for almost 800 years.
Not only did it become one of the founding cities of the Green Pilgrimage Network but the whole religion and conservation movement started here exactly 25 years ago when HRH The Prince Philip, then International President of WWF and the founder of ARC, hosted the first meeting of religious leaders with conservation leaders in 1986.
The Road to Assisi
Read more about how the unique event in 1986, bringing leaders from the world’s major religions together in Assisi to consider their faith’s role in relation to the environment, led to the gathering of faith leaders in Assisi on October 31, 25 years later.
The first Green Pilgrimage Network members
To find out more about the founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network, as well as pilgrimage statistics, link to the Green Pilgrimage Network section of this website here.