Northeast Catholics brave Holy Island tides to raise awareness of refugee crisis

More than 100 Catholics from across the north east came together on Saturday 10 September to brave the North Sea and walk to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, holding a cross hand-carved from the driftwood of capsized refugee boats. Parishioners from as far as Lancaster and Leeds came to walk the route and reflect on the refugee crisis and Catholic aid agency CAFOD's Refugee Appeal.

The handmade crosses were carved by an Italian carpenter Francesco Tuccio in Lampedusa, from the driftwood of capsized refugee boats and are being shared with Catholic communities through CAFOD. These crosses are the first destined for the UK since the British Museum acquired a Lampedusa cross for display in its collection in November 2015.

After the pilgrimage, a liturgy and Mass was then held at St Aidan's, the only Catholic Church on the island, where three months ago a smaller Lampedusa Cross had been left by Sheffield duo Libby and Martin Desforges, after they completed a 350 mile pilgrimage by bike from Iona to the Island.

CAFOD also gave each out Lampedusa Cross cards, on which participants could write messages of hope for refugees. These were presented during the offertory procession, along with the cross, to the priest during the Mass.

The Lampedusa crosses act as a symbol for communities in England and Wales as they respond to the refugee crisis. Parishioners from Newcastle and the surrounding areas have organised pilgrimages, with the cross, to show solidarity with the refugees arriving in the UK, as well as praying for those far from our shores.

David Cross, CAFOD Representative in Hexham and Newcastle, said: "The compassion shown by Catholics in the north east is extraordinary. This is a very real way of showing solidarity and letting those who have been forced from their homes know that we do care. It brings the message home that people around the world are suffering. Holding the Lampedusa cross and knowing it came from a boat on which so many died trying to reach safety must have been an incredibly moving experience for all who took part."

CAFOD is working with local partner organisations in Europe and beyond to provide practical help to those fleeing their homes, calling on the UK government to take a fair and proportionate share of refugees - from both within and outside the European Union - and pushing for the establishment of safe and legal routes to enable refugees to reach safety.

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