EcoWaste Coalition Decries the Massive Trashing of Luneta at the Concluding Mass of Pope Francis’ Visit

The “concern for the environment,” one of the key
messages that resonated throughout the five-day apostolic and state visit of
Pope Francis in the country, has yet to sink in the hearts and minds of
Catholic Filipinos.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, aired
this view after finding Rizal Park, venue of the concluding Mass, awash with garbage
that surpassed, by all accounts, the littering that tainted the celebration there of the feast of the Black Nazarene
last January 9.

“We are sad to see such a low regard for the environment
at a Holy Mass officiated by Pope Francis, the ‘green pope’ and participated in
by millions of Filipinos led by President Aquino who, the irony of it all, had proclaimed the month of January as the
first-ever ‘Zero Waste Month,’” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste

“The park, Manila’s green lung and the country’s premier
park, was wrapped in trash incompatible with a holy celebration that left eco-volunteers
and government workers busy cleaning up the mess,” she said.

“Oddly, we even found some garbage piles with discarded
tarpaulin reminders on top with a quote from Pope Francis that says ‘Let us be protectors
of God’s creation and of one another,’” she noted.

Photos taken by the group’s Basura Patrollers, which can
be viewed at http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com, showed heaps of
garbage-filled bags all over Rizal Park and its environs, food packaging left
at plant boxes, PET bottles thrown on the streets, discarded plastic sheets and
even liturgical booklets on the ground, tens of thousands of which were left undistributed.

“We hope that the undistributed Missalettes have not gone
to the dump, but were duly retrieved by church personnel for sharing with
others or by waste pickers for recycling,” Lucero said.

At his encounter with the youth at the University of
Santo Tomas, the Pope, in his prepared but undelivered speech, called on young
people “to make a contribution in showing concern for the environment.”

“As stewards of 
God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for
the human family,” the pontiff said. This message would again be heard in his
homily at the concluding Mass where he said “He created the world as a
beautiful garden and asked us to care for it.”

“Regrettably, Rizal Park was turned into an unsightly
garden with trash strewn all over the area. 
Even the national hero’s monument was not spared,” Lucero lamented.

She added that field reports noted the rampant littering
that also tarnished the papal motorcade routes since his arrival on January 15.

The massive trashing of Luneta for the second time this
year should encourage the bishops, the priests and the faithful to do a serious
rethinking of how Pope Francis’ call for the “protection of the

environment” is translated in faith-oriented activities,
the group suggested.

The EcoWaste Coalition thanked Pope Francis for
persistently reminding everyone to “take good care of creation,” as the group
expressed optimism that such a call will not be forgotten as Catholics ponder over the meanings of 
the papal visit in the coming days and weeks.

The group noted that Pope Francis has positioned himself
against wasting by his expressed preference for recycling and his abhorrence of
today’s “throw-away culture.”

In a 2013 video message, for example, Pope Francis
praised “cartoneros” or waste pickers all over the world, whose work, according
to the pope, is dignified and good for the environment.

Finally, the EcoWaste Coalition gave a big thumbs-up to
waste and sanitation workers and volunteers 
for their environmental service in yesterday’s mammoth Mass,
specifically thanking the parish volunteers, the waste pickers, the government
workers, the El Shaddai volunteers, Tzu Chi recyclers and other co-workers for
the protection of Mother Earth.