Marking the end of the Year of Mercy, hundreds from across the Diocese of Plymouth gathered in Plymouth city centre, travelling from as far away as Wool in Dorset and Truro in Cornwall, to take part in a Walk of Witness in solidarity with refugees. The Walk was led by Bishop Mark O’Toole, who walked alongside the diocesan Lampedusa Cross – a cross hand carved from the wreckage of refugee boats, the group walked to Plymouth Roman Catholic Cathedral, where a multi-faith service will took place.
As part of a campaign led by CAFOD and our partners CSAN and the Jesuit Refugee Service, each Catholic cathedral in England and Wales has been gifted a cross and invited to display it. The Lampedusa Crosses have become an international symbol of remembrance, hope and solidarity with refugees.
The Presentation of the Lampedusa Cross
At the start of the day, representatives from the Royal Navy, who have been involved in European led rescue operations in the Mediterranean, symbolically delivered the Lampedusa cross by boat to Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O’Toole and Anglican Archdeacon of Plymouth, Ian Chandler and other faith leaders, landing at The Mayflower Steps.
Bishop Mark O’Toole said: “Lampedusa is the place where, within his first months, Pope Francis went and he asked the question from the beginning of the Bible, ‘Where is your brother?’ reminding all of us that these people are our brothers and sisters.
“We share a common humanity and whilst there are great challenges in our immigration policy which we’re all very sensitive of, nevertheless particularly for families and for children, we must have a great compassion and empathy for them. It’s been good for our country that we’ve been able to welcome some of those that are most endangered at this time.”
Standing together to show solidarity
CAFOD organised the event alongside the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth, the Anglican Diocese of Exeter, Justice and Peace Plymouth, and local charity Transforming Plymouth Together.
Co-organiser of the event, CAFOD’s Coordinator for the Diocese of Plymouth, Simon Giarchi, said:
“It was inspirational to see people from across the diocese come together to represent their communities and show solidarity with their brothers and sisters who are seeking sanctuary. On the day, we received hundreds of messages of hope for refugees from across the diocese, that were then blessed at the interfaith service.
“We had nothing but positive feedback from the public and it was very affirming experience for everyone. I would like to thank everyone who came and helped organise this fantastic event.”
People in the South West and around the country have been invited to share their messages with refugees; CAFOD have now received over 24,000 messages!