There was a sea of colourful banners, flags and parasols at Westminster Cathedral yesterday, as an international congregation of more than 2,000 people, many in their national dress, processed in from Ambrosden Avenue and the Piazza for the 14th annual Migrants Mass, celebrating the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.
Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, was the principal celebrant. Instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955, the day emphasises Catholic Social teaching on the dignity to work and the rights of labour.
The Offertory Procession was led by the Caribbean, Ghanaian, Vietnamese, Filipino and Congolese communities. Gifts included beautifully wrapped daily items. They danced down the aisle and sang while playing music as they brought everything to the altar. Bidding Prayers were said in Nigerian, Chinese, Croatian, Filipino, Keralan with intersessions sung in Vietnamese.
During the Mass a Syrian woman spoke of her family's struggle to get to the UK. At the end of the service, she came up to the lectern with her family to thank the eight parishes that are sponsoring them and helping them to feel at home within the community in the Sutton deanery of Southwark diocese. They are here under the government's 'Community Sponsorship Scheme', which - as reported by ICN in the past - is promoted by the Bishops' Conference as well as by Citizens UK.
Phil Kerton from Seeking Sanctuary, praised them, saying: "They are Moslems and had never before attended a Mass, let alone spoken in a crowded cathedral."
In his homily Bishop Michael Campbell spoke of the value of each person and how much those who have come from other countries have contributed to the life of our communities here in this country.
Fr Joe Ryan, who leads Westminster Justice and Peace said: "It was a beautiful occasion. it was great to see the Cathedral full and a happy lively atmosphere. The different groups were so eager and proud to display their own traditions, especially in the Offertory of the Mass. It all shows that we can live together in peace and harmony regardless of our ethnicity…. It was a pleasure to be there."
The Migrants Mass is held each year in one of London's three dioceses: Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood.
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