Catholic-led global fast for climate justice arrives in US

This story appears in the COP 21 Paris feature series. View the full series.

by Brian Roewe

NCR environment correspondent

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Catholics in the U.S. will fast Monday as part of an international campaign geared toward greater awareness of and unity on climate change.

A project of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Lenten Fast for Climate Justice launched Ash Wednesday, with a different country holding the fast each day before passing it to the next nation in line. American fasters received the fast Bolivia -- who observed it Saturday -- and will hand it off to Australia Tuesday.

Organizers have asked Catholics on their country’s day not only to abstain from food but also engage in carbon-limiting behaviors, such as using public transportation, working from home, and reducing electricity usage.

[Explore this interactive map to see what countries will be fasting on which days]

As part of the U.S. fast, some Catholics in Washington D.C. will gather Monday afternoon at 12:30 p.m., eastern, in Upper Senate Park for a fast prayer vigil. The Franciscan Action Network, which organized the vigil, has invited members of Congress to join.

"Fasting has been part of faith traditions and justice movements from the Hebrew prophets to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and Cesar Chavez. Fasting is a way of connecting with God," said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, in a statement. "We are fasting as a way of following these examples, and we pray and hope that our elected officials will heed our call to end this moral crisis of destroying Gods creation."

In the same statement, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said that fasts have long served as “important acts of personal and community conscious raising”; for climate change, awareness of “the greatest environmental and ecological challenge we face over the next century.”

“This fast reminds us that we have a duty to be stewards to preserve and restore our world, by doing so we will ensure a healthy environment for our future generations and particularly for our most vulnerable - children, seniors, and people living in poverty," she said.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was also expected among the participants, but is believed no longer able to attend. In a Feb. 17 press release announcing the global fast, he said that “uniting people of all faiths is the principle that we are called upon to be good and responsible stewards of God's creation.”

For the U.S. fast, the hope is it shows climate change as a moral and spiritual issue, rather than a political one, Carolan told NCR.

“It’s not a political issue, it’s not an environmental issue. It’s really, and Pope Francis has put it so well, caring for all of God’s creation,” he said.

So far, 24 countries have observed the fast, and overall, more than 50 have signed on to participate.

Read more about the Lenten Fast for Climate Justice here.

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoeweMap of fasting nations created by NCR Bertelsen intern Mick Forgey (@mcforgs).]

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