Bishop Thomas McMahon, Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, and Bishop Laurie Green from the Anglican Diocese of Bradwell, paid a pastoral visit to the Dale Farm Travellers' site near Basildon in Essex last week. The threat of eviction is hanging over half the site and the two Bishops were keen to talk to residents about their situation. While they were there, they prayed with the bereaved family of John Flynn, a leading campaigner in the battle to remain at the site, who died recently.
Prior to the visit, the two churchmen toured the local Crays Hill Primary School, which is attended by many of the Traveller children. The Bishops, who were very impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of staff at the school, talked to some of the children and listened to them read.
"We are particularly concerned that breaking up this long-standing community and its way of life will be a serious trauma for the children, who have stability and support at the excellent Crays Hill Primary School," said Bishop Thomas.
Bishop Laurie said: "It is certainly a privilege in our ministry to support the Traveller community and to work for more understanding on all sides. We really enjoyed the company of such lovely children and we will be keeping Crays Hill School, the children and their families very much in our prayers."
Bishop Thomas added: "Alongside the humanitarian concerns, we have to ask if an extremely expensive operation to evict the Travellers is a good use of public money in these straitened times."
Bishop Thomas was accompanied by Sr Catherine Reilly and Fr Dan Mason from Wickford parish.
Bishop Thomas McMahon and Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford will be making a pastoral visit to the Travellers at Dale Farm on 30 August - the day before the council has said bailiffs will begin the £18million eviction. While the families bought the land - an old scrap metal site - more than ten years ago, the local council says it is designated as agricultural - not residential. They say they will bulldoze the chalets, caravans, shrines and flower beds, if the families refuse to move them. The families are refusing to move, because they say they have nowhere to go.
For more information on Dale Farm visit their Facebook page: http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Dale-Farm/100000205024856
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