The Palms of Palm Sunday & The Parrots

With a sprinkling of holy water, a priest blessed thousands of palm seedlings in a ceremony in Bogota’s main park, sealing an unusual Palm Sunday pact between the Roman Catholic Church and environmentalists to save a critically endangered parrot.

Thousands of miles away, 22 churches in the United States are for the first time using environmentally sustainable palm from Guatemala and Mexico for their services this Sunday.

This convergence of religion and ecology is taking root across scattered areas of the globe amid a heightened environmental awareness among some church leaders. More than 300 million palm fronds are harvested each year for U.S. consumption alone - most of them for Palm Sunday…"

"…The plan is to buy certified palms from communities using sustainable forestry practices and improve the communities’ profit margins, which gives them more incentive to protect the rainforest instead of clear-cutting it, the pastor said.

“Someone quipped that this is a palm pilot, but we’re really excited about it,” Berg-Moberg said.

There is a special urgency with the Colombian initiative, because the survival of a species is at stake.

There are only 540 or so yellow-eared parrots left on the planet. They exist only in Colombia. Their sole habitat is the wax palm, which grows on the misty flanks of the Andes Mountains to heights of 225 feet, making it the world’s tallest palm tree.

But for centuries, Colombians have used the fronds of the wax palm for Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, whose residents greeted him by waving palm fronds.

When Colombian peasants cut off the fronds from the young wax palms -Colombia’s national tree -to sell to worshippers, they die or their growth is stunted. The practice has led to a dramatic thinning of the towering palms.

A top Colombian cleric said it’s important for the church to join with environmental groups and government agencies to promote use of other palms and save the bright green-and-yellow parrots.

“We have a slogan: God pardons always, man pardons sometimes, but nature never does. Every abuse of nature you pay for, sooner or later,” said Monsignor Fabian Marulanda, secretary-general of the church’s policy-making Episcopal Conference. …"

"…Marulanda said the church refrained from joining the campaign earlier because some groups were proposing that worshippers display handkerchiefs, corn stalks and an assortment of other items instead of palm fronds.

“There would have been a burlesque aspect to it all,” Marulanda said. But the church came on board after the use of fronds from other palms was suggested…"

“We cannot expect that such a strongly held tradition will change overnight,” Cortes said. “But if we don’t do something, the wax palm and the yellow-eared parrot will disappear from the planet.”

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