Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Ministers and non-denominational faith leaders take up the call for environmental solidarity this weekend in Huntington Beach. Reflecting Pope Benedict’s call for environmental action and echoing the shared concern of many around the earth for climate change, the Blessing of the Waves ceremony brings diverse faith leaders and ocean-minded people together in a unique pier-side ceremony, Sunday, October 4, 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

“Our regional environment is shaped and influenced by its connection to the coast. The Diocese of Orange has invited all who appreciate the fragile ocean environment to join in solidarity and express in their own way – their spiritual appreciation for this wonderful gift of nature,” said the Most Rev. Tod D. Brown, Bishop of Orange.

While the early morning ceremony begins on land, surfing priests, rabbis and other faith leaders will join their congregations in a surf session meant to demonstrate the value of the ocean that is critically important to southern California.

“Fishing, surfing, and boating each have commercial value to our local and regional economy but it also provides enthusiasts with a personal and sometimes spiritual expression. The paddle-out concludes the Blessing Ceremony – and carries its message into the water and beyond,” he added.

This year’s Blessing of the Waves also touches on the spiritual and ethical responsibility to respect and nurture the planet and its resources. “Each of us has a moral duty to care for the natural environment. This was true 800 years ago when St. Francis of Assisi, a precursor of today’s environmental activists, demonstrated by his life and prayer the spiritual importance of physical nature. Climate change and other critical factors make his call for concern more meaningful than ever,” he added.

In fact, October 4th is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology and founder of the Franciscan Order 800 years ago in 1209. It was the Franciscans who established many of California’s missions.

“The Blessing of the Waves program brings together peoples of many faiths – sharing one concern. St. Francis would be pleased to know that his voice is being heard by surfers, sailors, fishermen and other ocean-minded people. We hope their voices and prayers will be heard by those ultimately responsible for the protection of this precious and wonderful resource,” Bishop Brown concluded.

Joining Rabbi Nachum Shifren, and Rev. Mathew Munoz for the paddle out will be 82 year old Franciscan friar, Rev. Christian Mondor, OFM. A respected waterman and master class swimmer, Fr. Mondor embodies a lifelong appreciation for the ocean – one shared by those attending the second annual, Blessing of the Waves.

Participating Clergy:

• Rev. Mathew Munoz, associate pastor, St. Irenaeus Parish, Cypress, Calif.
• Rev. Christina Mondor, vicar emeritus, Sts Simon and Jude Parish, Huntington Beach, Calif.
• Rabbi Nachum Shifren, the “Surfing Rabbi”
• Maneck Bhujwala, California Zoroastrian Center, Westminster, Calif.
• Donald Garrick, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
• Imam Fawad Yacoob, Islamic Society of Orange County
• Basma Khalifa, Religion of Submission
• Carol Weinfeld, Temple Beth David, Westminster, Calif.