CAFOD volunteer, Irene Prentice recalls the visit of the Lampedusa Cross to her church, St. John the Evangelist in Bath. The visit of the cross had a profound impact on parishioners and brought the reality of the refugee crisis closer to home.
CAFOD at St John the Evangelist was fortunate to be the brief custodian of a cross from Lampedusa made by the Sicilian carpenter Mr. Francesco Tuccio.
Mr. Tuccio created made the first Lampedusa Cross in 2009 from a wooden boat that a group of refugees had used to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Mr. Tuccio was inspired to do this by through his Christian faith: “As a Catholic inspired by the suffering Jesus Christ went through on the cross, I wanted to create crosses to give hope.”
The presence of this rough and humble cross from Lampedusa was a poignant reminder of the desperation and suffering of refugees the world over. According to the UNHCR in 2015, over 63 million people were displaced. These people have been driven away from their homes because of war, persecution and environmental changes.
The presence of the Lampedusa Cross in our community has made their suffering all the more tangible.
In the presence of the cross from Lampedusa, CAFOD supporters joined in rosary devotions to pray for world peace on August 7th before Sunday evening mass. Canon David Ryan reflected on the suffering of refugees and the need to find unity in diversity as we all belong to the family of God. Before and after mass the congregation were invited up to the altar for a closer view of the cross and to read the moving story behind the it. Sunday morning mass the following week was also dedicated to all refugees.
CAFOD’s Year of Mercy pilgrimage on the refugee crisis was held on Friday 12 August. At the suggestion of Canon David, meditations were held at noon and evening on August 23 and August 26 respectively. The accounts of refugees and their suffering were interwoven with the biblical accounts of the suffering of Christ and the people of God in the Bible. Pilgrims were encouraged to write messages of hope for the refugees. These messages will later be sent on to refugees.
Many who came for CAFOD’s Year of Mercy Pilgrimage at St. John’s (including parishioners from St Mary’s and further afield) were moved and humbled by the accounts of the victims seeking safe haven. One parishioner noted that the readings flagged up perspectives that were hidden from the media gaze. Another requested that such devotions should be repeated more frequently and felt that the reflections gave a strong moral perspective on the refugee crisis for Catholics.
We continue to focus on the refugee crisis with the Lampedusa Cross in our midst at Bridgemead Nursing Home thanks to Elizabeth and David Kavanagh. It will also be present at the forthcoming Faith and Light meeting at St John the Evangelist.
Our thanks go to CAFOD Clifton for the loan of the cross. Our gratitude also goes to Canon David, Catherine Chambakata and Chris Gamlath for their help in receiving the Lampedusa Cross made by Francesco Tuccio. We appreciate the suggestions of CAFOD supporters on how we could focus on the suffering of refugees. Finally, we thank the many who came to show solidarity, in prayer and contemplation, with those displaced and suffering in this Year of Mercy.