On Monday 23 May Archbishop David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Personal Representative to the Holy See, will travel to Lampedusa to collect a Lampedusa Cross which has been given to the Anglican Centre in Rome. The Cross is a visible reminder of the terrible suffering of people who, often through no fault of their own, feel they no longer belong in their own countries.
The cross is one of a few made by Francesco Tuccio, a local carpenter, from the wreckage of boats which have washed up on the shore of Lampedusa. One of these crosses has been given to Pope Francis, who bore it in the Good Friday procession this year. Another has been acquired by the British Museum as a mark and symbol.
Lampedusa is a small Italian island which, being close to the shores of Africa, has been the place which many of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea have tried to reach. It is also the first port to which those rescued from the sea are brought. While there Archbishop Moxon will meet with those responding to the crisis on the island and with the President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, who is also visiting the island that day.
The artist wrote this about the cross:
There were and are wooden boats coming to Lampedusa carrying people looking for help. And, although I have helped many, I was scarred by the desperation of those who had managed to save themselves. I also saw children and adults drowning. After I had seen so many landings, I was utterly dismayed. Finding clothes, shoes and food for the migrants was not enough for me. I wondered what I could do.
I thought, I prayed, I searched for divine inspiration in my heart, I looked at Jesus nailed on the cross and a deep emotion struck me – now I am the castaway searching for Providence, desperately trying to give voice to the scream that is dying in my throat, with a wish to raise awareness, in order to create a solid chain of help.
The answer came, it was always there, in front of my eyes – Jesus. That is why I built a great cross from the wood of those refugee boats arriving in Lampedusa.
I decided not to polish the wood, instead leaving it as it is: a wretched witness, ruined by so much pain.
The cross will be blessed and placed in the Anglican Centre’s chapel at Evensong on Sunday 29 May, which is also the day on which the Anglican Communion has been asked to pray for the Anglican Centre. It will serve as a focus for prayer and a reminder of the work of so many churches, Anglican among them, to respond to this crisis.
Archbishop David Moxon said, “Pope Francis visited the Mediterranean refugee island of Lampedusa soon after beginning his pontificate. There he celebrated mass at a beach on an upturned boat that had carried refugees from North Africa. He was given a cross made from the wood of such a boat which he sometimes carries as he calls us to carry the cross of the refugee crisis which is flooding the world today. We are going to this island to receive such a cross, which will sit in the heart of the Anglican Centre, bringing to mind daily the suffering and cause of displaced people.”
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