The annual Ash Wednesday procession through Whitehall Gardens and prayer vigil outside the Ministry of Defence (MoD) took place yesterday. Organised by Pax Christi, Christian CND and the London Catholic Worker - the message of peace and reconciliation was emphasised with fresh urgency this year by the haunting presence of two 'Ash Angels' a performance art project of XR Peace. They said they wanted to "makes explicit the impact of militarism and war on our ecological/climate emergency."
The event began with a liturgy in Embankment Gardens. Water and ashes were blessed by Fr Joe Ryan, former Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, and distributed 'as a sign of repentance' before the group processed to the MoD, led by Theresa Alessandro, director of Pax Christi.
Participants tied coloured ribbons to the MoD railings, to represent countries that have signed the Nuclear Ban Treaty and those who have yet to support the Treaty. They then walked to the front of the MoD - where heavily armed guards, standing next to the 'Ash Angels' watched while they wrote REPENT with ashes on a piece of sackcloth, sang hymns, prayed for a conversion of hearts and minds away from nuclear war preparations and the 'waste' of resources that entails, and heard several readings. One extract from Pope Francis speech in Nagasaki last November stated: "Our world is paradoxically marked by a perverse dichotomy that tried to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust - one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue."
One poster read: 'Church of England General Synod calls on Her Majesty's government to respond positively to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons."
Another stated: 'Turn to God with trust to teach us to be instruments of peace.' - Pope Francis at Nagasaki, 17 November 2019.
Japanese Buddhist monks and nuns from the Battersea Peace Temple, representatives from J&P groups, Catholic, Anglican and Methodist clergy were among those who took part. Campaigners had come from as far afield as Bristol, Southampton and Chesterfield.
A similar peace vigil was held for the first time in Coventry Cathedral. Further Ash Wednesday vigils took place in Liverpool and at Faslane Naval base near Helensburgh in Scotland. For the 40 days of Lent, Christian Climate Action and XR Peace are also holding a round-the-clock prayer outside Westminster Abbey.
See more pictures on ICN's Facebook page.
Pax Christi UK - http://paxchristi.org.uk/
Christian CND - https://christiancnd.org.uk/
London Catholic Worker - https://londoncatholicworker.org/
XR Peace - https://xrpeace.org/
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