October 4. The first day of the walk, as in 2015 began in St. Peter’s Square in Rome with an event organized by FOCSIV with support from groups such as Greenpeace and Maravito, a Rome-based organization with protection of the oceans as their cause. A large group formed a circle which led to prayers for the walkers, then followed by Yeb talking about why we walk to Poland and the significance of COP-24, followed by the customary taking of photographs as we processed from the Vatican. We are carrying with us about one thousand ribbons with messages from all over the world to take to Katowice. Many of these were strung on our backpacks as we left the Vatican City. A 16 kilometer walk took us to the outskirts of Rome, including some off-track walking along Riserva Natural di Monte Mario until we took a train from S. Filippo Neti to our first stop, Anguillra Sabazia which sits on Lago di Bracciano, the home town of FOCSIV workers Nadia and Andre who were instrumental in organizing the Italian part of the pilgrimage in 2015 from Rome to Paris. Also it is the home town of Claudia , the volunteer who will be with us until we leave Italy early next month. So a welcome was organized down by the lake where a presentation took place to explain both the reasons why we walk, as well as local concern for reducing the level of the lake both from a drought and a corporate company taking water from the lake that was lowered by as much as two meters in one year.
Altogether almost three dozen people began the walk from the Vatican. One walker I talked with, an American nun, sister Dani (left), explained to me her reasons for joining with us for that day. Dani, from the USA, is a nun on her first year of a 6-year term in Rome at the world HQ of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ order, a group of 24 nuns from round the world. On this, the closing day of the ‘Season of Creativity’ to focus on the health of our planet Earth, and to call for action, Dani felt the importance of joining us on this pilgrimage for one day before her next task. Dani has a connection with the nuns in Pennsylvania that built a church on their land which stands in the path of an oil pipeline. She said she felt it necessary to walk with the pilgrimage as each step adds to the message that we are all part of a journey to bring about a change in society’s response to climate change. Her message from today’s walk will be conveyed to her community which reaches around the world.
October 5. Today journey is to Campagno Romano, but a small group of refugee walkers with us from the Vatican aren’t allowed to leave Rome, so must return. Now the walkers’ numbers are down to nine including Claudia. With us also is our support driver Paolo, who also joined us in 2015 both as a driver in Italy, and as a pilgrim in France. Besides Yeb Sano from the Philippines, it is a joy to have his brother AG, and Albert again on this walk. Maica, Yeb’s assistant, helped in organizing for the walk and is with us for a few more days before returning to the Philippines. The other walkers with me are Berenice from the USA, Sebastien from France, and Patrick from England, currently living in Berlin. Today is mostly uphill off-road, total distance 26 km, and at close all ten on the pilgrimage are squeezed into a 5-bunk room for the night.
October 6/7: Up at 6 am, with early rain, we must leave early to take buses to Civita Castellana where we take two short train journeys by train to Terni. Then a 25 km walk begins with a steep mountain ascent. After the town of Cesi, the last few kilometers are off road with steep forest climbs which reminds me of my knee problems when walking along stony forest paths. After an hour on the hardest part of pilgrimages I’ve yet encountered, we arrive at our overnight resting place Romita di Cesi where we stay on the Sunday for a day of rest. After a church service, the morning meal is observed in silence. Romita di Cesi is a religious community which welcomes travelers. Today (Monday) we walk to Spoleto.