A WOODEN cross made from the remnants of a boat that took refugees across the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa is to decorate the altar of the Anglican Centre in Rome “as witness to their suffering and the Easter hope which is now being offered to them”.
The cross was presented to the director of the centre, Archbishop David Moxon, by the artist Franco Tuccio, to draw attention to the plight of the thousands of refugees who enter Europe through the island. It is crafted to resemble a pastoral staff given to Pope Francis during his visit to Lampedusa two years ago.
Archbishop Moxon and the associate director of the centre, Fr Marcus Walker, were on a visit to the island, last week, to witness the work of the Sant’Egidio community in Rome, which is supporting refugees arriving on the island.
“From the moment we got off the plane until leaving the island again, Fr Marcus and I were constantly moved, challenged, and surprised by what we heard and saw,” Archbishop Moxon wrote on his blog.
The pair were welcomed by the island’s Roman Catholic parish priest, Fr Don Mimmo, and held talks with the president of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, Luca Maria Negro. The Federation has partnered with the Sant’Egidio community to create “Mediterranean Hope”, a support project for refugees arriving in Italy, and also to lobby for the creation of “humanitarian corridors” to give refugees safe passage across the Mediterranean “rather than risking their lives on the open sea”.
Archbishop Moxon and Fr Marcus went on to visit the Lampedusa cemetery where hundreds of nameless victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and migrants who have disappeared at sea, are buried or remembered.
“The people of the island of Lampedusa try to honour their memory in a portion of the cemetery dedicated to the unknown,” he said. “The people of the island have shown enormous compassion to both the living and the dead — as stories of their welcome to every new batch of migrants rescued from the sea tell.”
Archbishop Moxon later drew attention to the work of the Anglican Church in Greece, which he said had been “the catalyst and bridge-builder” in enabling six Christian aid agencies and churches, including Caritas and the Salvation Army, to provide clothing, tents, a kitchen, and medicine to arriving refugees.
He concluded: “Lampedusa is the site of so much desperation — but also so much redemption. Only an Easter faith makes any sense.”
Mr Tuccio has made several crosses from the boat, and one will be used to lead a pilgrimage service at Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square, in London, on 25 June. The service, which begins at 2.30 p.m., will be hosted by Westminster Justice and Peace as part of Refugee Week, which has “Welcome” as this year’s theme.