A PRIEST who will support refugees in Calais is being recruited by the Church of England, in partnership with USPG.
He or she will serve as chaplain to the Pas-de-Calais congregations who have been without a priest since 2011, and as a “refugee project officer”, giving pastoral support and assistance, in partnership with the various charities and agencies in the area.
Some of the money raised by the Bishop in Europe’s Lent appeal, which is in aid of unaccompanied child migrants in Calais, will go to the person appointed, to enable him or her to fund small projects. The rest will go to Maria Skobtsova House, a safe house run by Brother Johannes Maertens, a member of an Old Catholic community who is a member of the Anglican congregation in Calais.
In his appeal, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, warned that the plight of the migrants in Calais was “worse than when they are in the spotlight of media attention”. In the absence of the “Jungle” camp, demolished in October 2016 (News, 28 October, 2016), the numbers sleeping rough in the surrounding area had “hardly changed. Valiant volunteers from France and Britain struggle to meet the most basic needs of these migrants. But what they and the migrants themselves are urgently seeking is human warmth and hope.”
In a film produced for the appeal, Brother Johannes said that, while there was much physical need in Calais, “I think sometimes the biggest need is simply being recognised as a human person. . . The mission of the house is to be prayerfully present among the refugees. Our experience is that often it’s the other way round, because many of the refugees are very spiritual or religious people — they often bring prayer into our lives.”
It was important for the House to have a rhythm, he said, because many of the young refugees “have no sense of time any more, because they have been travelling for months, often longer”. It was also the only place that refugees could do their laundry.
The chaplain will have also have permission to officiate in the diocese of Canterbury, which already employs a Kent Refugees Officer, Domenica Pecoraro (Interview, 24 June 2016). The Priest-in-Charge of Christ Church, Lille, Canon Debbie Flach, said that the chaplain’s remit would include “caring for those who care for the migrants”. The diocese is already working in partnership with USPG in Greece, where many migrants begin their journey through Europe.
A survey of unaccompanied migrants, conducted last year and referred to by Dr Innes, suggests that more than 95 per cent of them had experienced police brutality. More than half had experienced being woken up in the middle of the night and moved on with nowhere to go, and more than one third had family members in the UK. Fewer than five per cent had been given any access to information about asylum law.
The Anglican community in Calais meets at the Oratoire Notre-Dame de la Miséricorde, which is currently served by a lay minister, Professor Mary Wood. The eucharist is celebrated regularly by the Revd Sara MacVane — the last occupant of the post.
The closing date for applications is 18 May: jobs.churchtimes.co.uk/jobs/Chaplain-and-Refugee-Projects-Officer-in-Europe-jn6010