Some of the Vietnamese dancers - pic ICN
There was standing room only as more than 2,000 people gathered for the Mass for Migrants at Westminster Cathedral yesterday, the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.
Among the VIPs who attended Mass were MPs Jon Cruddas and Jim Dobbin, the Deputy Mayor of the City of Westminster, the Mayors of Richmond, Kensington and Chelsea and Brent, and ambassadors from EU and other countries including Ghana, Nigeria, the Philippines, Bolivia and Poland.
The Mass was celebrated by Right Rev Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood with priests from the ethnic chaplaincy.
The homily was given by Archdiocese of Southwark Auxiliary Bishop Pat Lynch, SS CC, who chairs the Office for Migration Policy of the Bishops’ Conference. During his homily he praised the contribution migrants make to British society through their work and in their parish communities. He asked Catholics to “proclaim a message of hope that God is close to the poor, the vulnerable, the exploited, those seeking asylum and those who are undocumented.”
He also stressed that the Catholic Church is concerned not just about migrants but also about their families: “A family does not cease to be a family because one of its members emigrates overseas. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (16.3) recognizes the family as 'the natural and fundamental group unit of society entitled to protection by society and the State'. The right of families to reunite should be a priority in a civilized state.”
His final message was to urge Catholics to speak out on behalf of migrants, asking God to “give all of us the courage to speak out prophetically and do what we can to prevent migrant workers from within or outside the European Union becoming scapegoats and targets of popular frustration with the economy. Jesus preached a message of hope and was by the way he accompanied others and the way he helped and healed others a sacrament of hope.”
This was the seventh Mass for Migrants to have been organised jointly by the Diocese of Westminster, the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of Brentwood and supported by their Justice and Peace Commissions and Ethnic Chaplaincies.
A choir for the Mass was provided by the Nigerian community.
“Migration has its painful and most discomforting challenges” said Fr Albert Ofere, ethnic chaplain for the Nigerian community in London. “Religious challenges are no less exceptional. The Chaplaincy has got a legal surgery and a project team to help point people in the right direction in settling. The Chaplaincy also creates a family and friendly atmosphere for interaction and networking. “
A liturgical procession and dance was carried out by young people from the Vietnamese Community.
The Vietnamese Chaplaincy is based in East London, in Poplar. Fr Paul Chanh is the chaplain serving the 3,000 Vietnamese Catholics that live in and around London.
The Vietnamese was represented in good numbers at the Mass for Migrants and Fr Paul explains that this is because the community want to return some of the diocese’s generosity: “We owe a lot to the diocese. The community feel that the diocese supports us and feel that it gives them everything they need. That is why, if the diocese ask them to do anything, they do their best to get involved.”
Source: Archbishops House/ICN