Green Pilgrimage Network launched in Assisi, Italy

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News release: 14 November 2011

Founder members receive their certificates from HRH Princess Michael of Kent in a ceremony at Assisi, Italy, November 1, 2011

Green Pilgrimage Network launched in Assisi, Italy

St Albans has joined the world’s first network aimed at greening pilgrimages which are undertaken by an astonishing 100 million people a year.

A party from St Albans including Cllr Beric Read, Portfolio Holder for Community Engagement and Localism at St Albans City and District Council and Canon Kevin Walton of St Albans Cathedral, attended the launch of the Green Pilgrimage Network at the Sacred Land Celebration in Assisi, Italy. This was organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in association with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). At this event the founder members received their certificates from HRH Princess Michael of Kent. St Albans is the first English city to be part of this international, interfaith network.

The event opened on Monday October 31 with a procession with banners, flags, drummers and torch-bearers. The religious delegates were led by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent, who represented ARC’s founder the Duke of Edinburgh, who was unable to attend due to illness. The delegates attended workshops and shared experiences and best practice.

The Network’s aim is to make places of pilgrimage as environmentally sustainable as possible. As the oldest place of Christian pilgrimage in Great Britain, St Albans Cathedral was invited to be part of this network in partnership with the City and District Council.

Cllr Beric Read, Portfolio Holder for Community Engagement and Localism commented: “This is a great step for St Albans in promoting both our environmental initiatives and tourism. I would like to congratulate the Abbey and thank them for all the work they have put in and also to thank ARC for organizing and funding this initiative.”

Canon Kevin Walton, Canon Chancellor of St Alban’s Cathedral added, “This is both a great opportunity and challenge for the Cathedral and city and district of St Albans in our work together. St Albans deserves to be better known as a pilgrimage destination because of its unique heritage, and at the heart of this vision is the need to ‘tread lightly’ as pilgrims on this earth.”

St Albans takes its name from Alban who was martyred in the Roman town of Verulamium, around the end of the third century. He was the first Christian martyr in Great Britain, and his burial place is the oldest surviving place of Christian worship in England. Many pilgrims went there over the years and a city grew up around the site, to provide hospitality. Up to 3,000 Christians come to St Albans to celebrate the saint’s day 22 June with a procession and dramatic re-enactment of his martyrdom, while around 1,500 come to the annual pilgrimage on Easter Monday. In addition, the Cathedral receives annually up to 180,000 visitors and pilgrims, as well as 16,000 school children.

St Albans’ green pilgrimage actions are to become an outstanding place of welcome and ecological hospitality and include:

• Investigating alternative sources of heat for the Cathedral
• Introducing a new environmental trail for school groups
• A new green fund to support local projects – visitors and worshippers will be invited to contribute through carbon calculation.
• Building up a new network of pilgrim ways as well as footpaths and cycle ways throughout the city and
• Encouraging local hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions to use renewable energy and to source their food environmentally.

ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer said: “Cities from China to Norway and faiths from all around the world today commit to making one of the most powerful religious experiences – pilgrimage – a living witness to a commitment to protect our living planet…..This is an invitation to all holy places to put into practice what they preach – namely, that when we walk upon this Earth, we walk on sacred land.”

The Green Pilgrimage Network brings together faiths and local governments to make their pilgrim cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, according their own theologies and understanding of the natural world.

HRH Princess Michael of Kent read Prince Philip’s speech, in which he recalled how the first Assisi event in 1986 was to see how the faiths could work with the conservation movement to protect Nature. “It seemed to me that if someone believes that all of life was created by God this should mean they would feel a sense of responsibility to protect the handiwork of God,” she read on Prince Philip’s behalf.

Member contact at St Albans City and District Council
Cllr Beric Read, Portfolio Holder for Community Engagement and Localism
Tel: 01727 760060 Mob: 07956 220264

Contact for the press for St Albans City and District Council:
Davina Mansell, Information and Communication Officer
Tel: 01727 819316. E-mail:
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Media contacts ARC, Susie Weldon
Tel: +44 (0)1225 758004; UK mobile: +44 797 0466 830;

Media contacts ARC, Victoria Finlay:
Tel: +44 (0)1225 758004; +44 7960 111587;


Photo caption for ARC2988.jpg left to right:
HRH Princess Michael of Kent; The Hon Mrs Sara Morrison Vice President Emeritus of WWF International; Councillor Beric Read St Albans City Council; and Canon Kevin Walton St Albans Cathedral, at a ceremony commemorating the pilgrim city of St Albans, UK, becoming a founder member of the Green Pilgrimage Network. ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer looks on.
The Green Pilgrimage Network was launched at Assisi, Italy, in a celebration organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in association with WWF, on November 1, 2011. Photograph: ARC/Katia Marsh.

Photos are available at:
There are a variety of images for media use available via ARC's Flickr site. Please credit as requested on each image.

For further information: visit ARC’s website at

Founder members of the Green Pilgrimage Network include:

• Amritsar, India (for Sikhs);
• Assisi, Italy (Roman Catholic);
• Etchmiadzin, Armenia (Armenian Orthodox);
• Haifa, Israel (Bahà’ì);
• Jerusalem (for Jews, Christians and Muslims);
• Jinja Honcho, the Association of Shinto shrines in Japan;
• Kano, Nigeria (Islam’s Qadiriyyah Sufi tradition);
• Louguan in the People’s Republic of China (Daoists);
• St Albans, England (Church of England);
• Luss, Loch Lomond, Scotland (Church of Scotland);
• St Pishoy Monastery, Wadi El Natroun, Egypt (the Coptic Orthodox Church);
• Trondheim, Norway (Lutheran Church of Norway).

Around 100 million people go on pilgrimage every year, whether for a few hours, days or even weeks, according to figures compiled by ARC. (For a breakdown of the figures, visit 
HRH Princess Michael of Kent
HRH Princess Michael of Kent is married to Prince Michael of Kent, cousin to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She has a love of history and the arts and has written several best-selling historical books. She is also a lecturer, art consultant and interior designer.

Princess Michael is patron of three conservation organisations in Africa which are concerned with cheetahs in South Africa, rhino and wild dogs in Tanzania and an elephant and rhino orphanage in Kenya.