Pilgrims from across the Diocese converged in Canterbury on Friday 3rd October to celebrate the launch of the Green Pilgrimage Network Canterbury Partnership (GPN Canterbury Partnership); a partnership of some 40 local sacred sites, pilgrim routes, local food producers, tourism authorities, Canterbury City Council and local businesses, committed to making pilgrimage to the region more environmentally friendly.
The partnership has been brought together by the Diocese of Canterbury’s Communities and Partnerships Framework. It will work to celebrate, support and promote more widely, the range of pilgrimage routes and places across the Diocese, in line with Partnership’s Action Plan.
The GPN Canterbury is part of the wider Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) which is a global association of sacred sites, including places such as
St Albans in England and Amritsar in India, all committed to making pilgrims and the sacred sites that welcome them more environmentally aware. It is convened by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).
Around fifty pilgrims made their way on foot, and even by boat from five points in East Kent including: The Shrine of St Augustine in Ramsgate, The National Shrine of St Jude in Faversham, Patrixbourne Church on the Via Francigena, Porchlight’s ‘My Streets’ tour in Canterbury, and on the river from Sandwich.
The Friday event was part of a whole weekend of events celebrating the spiritual and pilgrim heritage of Canterbury, including talks and activities at the Beaney Museum, and culminating in the Archbishop of Canterbury joining pilgrims in the final leg of the re-established Pilgrims’ Way (an ancient route from Winchester to Canterbury) and leading a special Pilgrims’ Service at the Cathedral.
At that service the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby said:
“The Green Pilgrimage Network is an inter-faith movement in which Canterbury has an important part, drawing attention to our call to be good stewards of creation.”
He continued: “The environment, the responsibility for where we are in the world in which we live, has disappeared from the radar of politics, buried under crisis after crisis, buried under economic stringencies. What difference will such a pilgrimage network make? We do not yet know but it is the beginnings of an encounter to celebrate and recognise that God is in every part of life.”
Spiritual tourism is an increasingly influential sector of the global tourism industry. Last month the UN World Tourism Organisation held their first meeting on tourism and pilgrimage and announced their latest figures show that 330 million people go on pilgrimage each year – a third of all tourists worldwide.
Alison Hilliard,Deputy Secretary General ARC and Director of the GPN, says that the increasing numbers of people going on pilgrimage demonstrates the significance of the GPN Canterbury Partnership and the power of the green pilgrimage vision:
“Green pilgrimage is about much more than cleaning up rubbish and tackling the environmental damage that pilgrims can cause – important as that is. It’s about the transformation that could come if green pilgrims were to reconnect with nature on their pilgrimage and as a result realise again what an amazing and precious world we live in and how we have to act to preserve our planet.
“It’s a vision of the positive impact pilgrims and pilgrim places can have if green pilgrims were to support local restaurants, local food, and local accommodation and how green pilgrimage can help people engage with local communities and places, promoting a new sense of local pride. Essentially Green pilgrimage is about making a positive difference in our world and involving everyone to play their part in creating a model of the world we’d like to live in.”
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