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 Coalition.

“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

“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, 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.