Lancaster: 1,000 attend service for victims of Morcambe Bay tragedy

 A thousand people filled St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lancaster yesterday for an inter-faith service in remembrance of the 20 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay. Incense smoke drifted from an urn as 20 representatives of various communities involved each placed a white carnation on the altar and scattered incense as the choir sang John Rutter's setting of Psalm 23, 'The Lord's my Shepherd'. Worship was flavoured with calls for changes in government legislation, and justice in employment practices as the vast congregation remembered the victims alongside all workers, in a service held on Unemployment Sunday. Christian leaders processed into the Cathedral with members of other faith communities; a Methodist minister's white cassock alb set against the black robes on an Orthodox priest; the vivid saffron of Buddhist robes contrasting with the purples of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops. In his opening prayer Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Patrick O'Donoghue reminded the congregation: "Our brothers and sisters were suddenly and violently taken from us." The lesson was read by the local MP Geraldine Smith and Amy Wang led prayers in Chinese and English. Lee Kai Hung, representing the North-west Chinese Council, announced the setting up of a Morecambe Bay Chinese Victims Support Fund. "We, of course, share your grief and sorrow," he told the victims' families. In honouring the dead, Stephen Chung also called on politicians to initiate "an urgent review" of employment regulations affecting migrants. He called on the local council and other authorities for stronger controls to safeguard those working on local beaches, including warning signs for non-English speaking workers. And he called on the local community to "forgive disturbances being made to the tranquillity of this area" and to keep a watch for those in potential danger on the sands. "May the drifting souls be found soon and the traditional cockling industry flourish with the least casualties," he said. The address was given by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev Patrick Kelly, whose childhood home overlooked Morecambe Bay. He spoke against the background of a tapestry transposing the Biblical stories of Galilean fishermen against the seascape of the Bay, with a traditional Morecambe fishing boat and a backdrop of the Lake District hills. The Archbishop, who had just returned from Iran, set the Morecambe Bay tragedy alongside the earthquake devastation of Bam, and the exploding train near the holy city of Moshad. "In the presence of all those coming close by to bring comfort and rescue and healing I say: wherever we see toil, labour to breaking point, dedication, skill, patient endurance, going way beyond any call of duty, there we catch a glimpse of the divine," he said. The Archbishop set the skill and courage of the Morecambe Bay rescuers alongside those still working in Iran and challenged the congregation in its response to tragedy. "For at such a time I do not think I am alone in asking: is my heart deep enough, affectionate enough, warm enough, to hold those who perished in the treacherous sands, currents, tides of Morecambe Bay's deceiving beauty and serenity." And as he reviewed the challenge of Jesus to Peter after forgiving his act of denial, following a night's fishing, the Archbishop said contemporary challenges also demanded answers. "The tragedy of Morecambe Bay, like the devastation of Bam, like that blazing cargo train, demands that questions are asked; that inquiry is searching, rigorous, thorough; questions must be asked, wrongs named, evil confronted, guilt never ignored." Prayers were led by the Anglican Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Stephen Pedley and the Rev Stephen Poxon, Chair of the North Lancashire Methodist District." Thanking everyone 'for taking the time to reflect and pray", Bishop O'Donoghue added: "The Morecambe Bay tragedy has, in a strange way, brought us all closer together' civic, church, community leaders and people from far and near. I feel I know more about the Chinese community than I have ever known in the past." Source: Diocese of Lancaster

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