A GROUP of Coventry reisdents completed a remarkable journey which saw them carry hand-carved crosses made from capsized regugee boats on a 110km journey across Europe to show solidarity towards refugees across the world.
A total of 34 parishioners travelled to Spain to walk the Camino pilgrimage, also known as the Way of St.James, from Sarria to Santiago, which was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages.
One member of the group carried a Lampedusa Cross, which was made from driftwood collected from capsized refugee boats, along the journey. The cross has become a powerful symbol for the refugee crisis.
Judith Doherty, from St Thomas More Parish in Cheylesmore, first heard about the Lampedusa Cross through a Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) campaign, which saw each Catholic cathedral in England and Wales presented with a cross
They are hand carved by an Italian carpenter, Francisco Tuccio, and Pope Francis carried a Lampedusa cross at a memorial service for those who had died.
“I told the people about the cross, the refugees, and the terrible loss of life,” said Judith. ”
“I shared how Francisco Tuccio had created the cross as a symbol of hope to show that people were thinking about the refugees, and how they were not alone.
“I gave everyone cards and that evening, people shared with me their messages that they had written to share with refugees. That was a really good feeling.”
To show solidarity with refugees across the world, Judith wanted to carry the cross on the 110km pilgrimage she was set to complete from Sarria to Santiago. The group, which mainly consisted of parishioners from Christ the King church in Coundon, walked five days, pausing to reflect at various points and the pilgrimage culminated in Mass at the Cathedral.
“Everyone had their own personal reasons for taking part and on the final day before we got to Santiago we had a little mass on the hill,” said CTK Parish Priest Tom Farrell.
“Judith asked if she could bring the cross along and it was during that final mass when she told the group all about its importance.
“It was warm and it required quite a bit of effort. There were some blisters and aching limbs at the end but it was well worth it.”
Catholics of all ages in schools, churches and communities in Coventry have been sharing messages of welcome, hope and love, which will be shared with refugees in the UK as an act of solidarity and dedicated at a special event to take place in November.
Judith added: “When we left from Sarria, in Northern Spain, I was slightly nervous about the journey ahead; we were setting off on the on The Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) pilgrimage where we were planning to walk over 110 km to the Cathedral of Satiago de Compostela.
“As soon as we started, I had a great feeling of spirituality and the Lampedusa Cross was sticking out of my backpack, moving me forward. On the first day, we walked for five and half hours, covering 21.5km. The oldest person in our group was Sister Ruth who is 85, although she had blisters on her feet, she never complained, she just kept going.
“One the last day, we reached a little place just outside Santiago, called Monte de Gozo. This was the place where on World Youth Day in 1989, John Paul II led the final mass.
“When we were sat in the tiny chapel, I shared the story of the Lampedusa Cross, which I had been carrying on my back all the way.”
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.