WASHINGTON — Patrick Carolan is going hungry under a tent in McPherson Square.
But his hunger is by choice.
Carolan is halfway through a hunger fast ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Washington. He and six others are fasting in downtown D.C. as other religious leaders join in from different spots around the globe. The fast is being organized by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
“Fasting is a very spiritual method; I’m part of the Franciscan family and Franciscans back to the time of St. Francis have often done fasts,” says Carolan. “It’s a spiritual method to get the issue out there and raise awareness, and it’s a very prayerful message.”
In June, Pope Francis released an encyclical calling on the faithful to be better stewards of the planet. The document calls for more use of public transit, better recycling habits and energy conservation. It further cemented this pope as one unafraid to push the Catholic church towards action, and Carolan is doing his part to spread that message.
“It’s a call to action and it’s a call for hope. I think that’s really energizing people to change their lifestyles, to think about what they can do, but also how they can get involved to change governments.”
Pictures of how climate change is affecting the lives of people globally surround the biggest of the white tents. Inside, a table covered with more signs and fliers is an invitation to pedestrians walking by to enter the conversation.
Carolan says this is also about connecting the dots between climate change and poverty.
“It’s not an environmental issue. It’s not an economic issue. It’s a moral and ethical issue,” says Carolan. “Climate, migration, income inequality – they’re all the same issue basically and so he [Pope Francis] talks about it as though we’re living in a world of separation, not a world of interconnectiveness. We should be a part of creation, not separate from creation.”
Carolan says nurses check on them routinely. The fasters are staying at a nearby hostel at night, but otherwise they have someone in the tents around the clock. They are only drinking water, and Carolan says the next few days will grow progressively more difficult as their bodies weaken. He knows, because this isn’t his first fast. He says that two years ago he fasted for 13 days during an immigration protest.
“I do think it sends a powerful spiritual message. One of the things that were called to do is to sacrifice, this is my way of sacrificing.”