Hundreds walk in solidarity as Lampedusa Cross is delivered to Plymouth shores by Royal Navy

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Bishop Mark O’Toole with CofE Arch-Deacon Ian Chandler, representatives from the Royal Navy and Oliver Colevile MP with the Lampedusa Cross on the Mayflower Steps

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.

Write a message of hope to refugees

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

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Royal Navy launch delivering the Lampedusa Cross to Bishop Mark and faith leaders at the Mayflower Steps

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.

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Bishop Mark at Walk of Witness

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!

Write a message of hope to refugees

Preparing for Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si

Pope Francis & Dove

In the lead up to the launch of Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Laudato Si (meaning Be Praised) On the Care of our Common Home. We are asking everyone to join us to pray that the world will be inspired by Pope Francis’ leadership and takes action in this crucial year.

Sunset over Ganges Delta and CAFOD partner,Caritas Bangladesh's project in Mongla District

Sunset over Ganges Delta and CAFOD partner,Caritas Bangladesh’s project in Mongla District

The encyclical title Laudato Si  is taken from St Francis of Assisi’s beautiful prayer the Canticle of Brother Sun.

The Encyclical will be released on the 18th of June, and will be about Climate Change and the lives of communities living in poverty around the world, emphasising the link between environmental destruction and poverty. The interconnection between human dignity and human development and human ecology is also expected to be a central  topic of the encyclical.

We therefore encourage you all to join us in praying St Francis’ beautiful prayer with us:

Canticle of Brother Sun

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
yours are the praises, the glory, the honour
and all blessing.To you alone, Most High, do they belong
and no human is worthy to mention your name.Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.

And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High One.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars:
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind;
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night:
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us
and who produces various fruit
with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be you, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for your love
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessèd are those who endure in peace:
for by you, Most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be you, my Lord, for our Sister,
Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape:
woe to those who die in mortal sin.

Blessèd are those whom death will find
in your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord and give him thanks
and serve him with great humility.

For more of CAFODs resources in the lead up to the launch of the encyclical Laudato Si  please visit the CAFOD website where CAFODs’ theology team have pulled together some excellent resources to support you to engage with this historic document.

http://www.cafod.org.uk/Pray/Encyclical

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Oscar Romero 35 Years after his Assassination & Martyrdom

Romero & his people

Soon to be ‘Blessed’ Archbishop Oscar Romero, was a defender and the voice of the voiceless poor

35 years since his assassination Oscar Romero will be beatified in San Salvador on the 23rd May 2015 by Pope Francis. His assassination on the 24th March 1980 followed the three years the archbishop had spent denouncing violence and the injustices facing the people of El Salvador.

In a time of heavy press censorship, Romero’s weekly radio broadcasts were often the only way people could find out the truth about the atrocities that were happening in their country. He defended the right of the poor to demand political change, a stance which made him the most outspoken critic of the country’s rulers.

The day before he was assassinated, he spoke out once again and went as far as to tell soldiers and police not to follow orders to kill civilians, and stop be party to government’s repression of its people, saying: “The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”

March 24th 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass 2

Moments after Archbishop Oscar Romero’s Assassination whilst saying Mass on 24th March 1980

In the 1970s the Catholic community in England and Wales reached out and supported Oscar Romero through CAFOD and helped fund his vital radio broadcasts which were the only way for people in El Salvador to hear about the atrocities happening in their country. When Romero’s radio station was blown up, CAFOD provided funding to rebuild it. CAFOD also helped to fund the support given by the Church to thousands of people who had fled their homes because of the violence.

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Plaque at the entrance of CAFOD’s Head Office ‘Romero House’ commemorating Archbishop Oscar Romero

After Romero was martyred, CAFOD staff successfully petitioned Lambeth Council to rename the Brixton street where their office was located ‘Romero Close’. And when CAFOD moved to a new office in 2009, it was named ‘Romero House’. Romero is an inspirational figure one that can be compared to the likes of Martin Luther King and Gandhi as not only a peacemaker but a man of extreme courage and wisdom standing up and speaking about the important issues and what should be done.

Oscar Romero is such a key figure in modern history that the United Nations set up the 24th March as the ‘International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims’ not only to honour the memory of victims of human rights violations and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice but to also as they say “Recognize, in particular, the important work and values of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, of El Salvador, who was assassinated on 24 March 1980, after denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations and defending the principles of protecting lives, promoting human dignity and opposition to all forms of violence.”

Oscar Romero’s life and witness reminds us that Christ is found in people living in poverty, and that we cannot ignore the suffering of our brothers and sisters in need. Romero’s legacy has helped inspire many Catholics throughout the world to not only stand in solidarity with the poorest and most marginalized but to also take a stand against war, violence and corruption which for many still hold back people in poverty.

Oscar Romero’s life and witness reminds us that Christ is found in people living in poverty

Romero’s life & witness reminds us that Christ is found in people living in poverty

Romero’s legacy has had a major effect on his home country with El Salvador’s government enabling positive social and educational policies that Romero would approve of: fiscal reform, free school uniforms and books for children, funding for cooperatives, more social programmes. However despite such positive steps the country still suffers the problems of organized crime and gang violence as well as the ongoing threats of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods and hurricanes.

Romero’s beatification will be attended by thousands of people and millions more will be reached by the TV broadcasts of the occasion, and it will perhaps be one of the most memorable occasions of our lifetime and of our faith journey.

Romero’s legacy will never be forgotten and his eventual canonization as a saint will continue to inspire Christians and people from other faiths and none to stand in solidarity with people living in poverty and injustice and to act to create a fairer world where all people can reach their full potential free from fear and oppression.

For more information visit CAFOD’s Romero page: www.cafod.org.uk/romero