Despite the repeated announcement of this gentle reminder aired over the public address system, some devotees who went to popular Lenten pilgrimage sites on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday chose to leave a trail of garbage behind.
The EcoWaste Coalition lamented that littering has become a “tradition” tarnishing the annual journey of the faithful to favorite pilgrimage destinations in the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.
According to reports filed by the group’s Basura Patrollers, littering was widespread at the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine in San Jose del Monte City, the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Marilao, and the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Cathedral in Antopolo City.
Among the most littered items reported were the paper and plastic materials used by visitors for picnicking, resting and sleeping, plastic bags, food packaging, food leftovers, and lots of plastic bottles.
“We regret that our appeal for a garbage-free Holy Week remain unheeded as many devotees, without any sense of guilt or shame, left their discards anywhere,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“It’s apparent that many devotees have yet to appreciate the connection between the expression of our faith and our responsibility to take good care of our shared environment. Environmental apathy, sad to say, is still very prevalent,” she said.
At the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine, improvised sleeping materials, including election campaign posters, were found scattered around the church and the Stations of the Cross in the morning of Good Friday for cleaners to pick up.
Bins and sacks were overflowing with garbage, and plastic bottles for water and beverages were all over the place.
“Aside from the usual rubbish, we were saddened to see bread given by good Samaritans lying on the ground or in garbage pile. What a waste!” Lucero exclaimed.
The situation at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy was no different.
Shrine visitors left heaps of garbage all over the area. The space fronting the giant Divine Mercy statue, the tallest in the country, was not spared.
The situation at the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Cathedral was the same with garbage strewn across the church patio.
“The main stairs of the church were full of litter such as plastic bottles and plastic wrappers. Church volunteers were kept busy cleaning up the mess,” Lucero said.
As the celebration of the Earth Day on April 22 nears, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged the faithful to care for Mother Nature as they profess and practice their faith, stressing that faith-inspired activities should not add to the country’s waste and pollution problems.
“In fact, faith-inspired efforts should set a higher benchmark with respect to the responsible use and protection of the earth’s resources,” Lucero said.
“Let us be reminded by what our bishops have said: ‘We are not owners of the earth. We are its stewards, to keep and cherish and nurture its resources not only for ourselves but for future generations’,” she concluded.
Link to CBCP statement “Stewards, Not Owners”