‘I was a Stranger and You made me Welcome’

6th September 2018

“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

Pope Francis, 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees

In 2017 the Passionist Provincial Chapter made it a priority of the work of the Congregation to welcome the stranger. In support of this, on Saturday 28th April 2018, Martin Newell CP and two members of the Community of the Passion, Kris Pears and Paschal Somers, joined with 125 other CAFOD supporters to walk the three and a half mile route from Cannon Hill Park to St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham, accompanied by Archbishop Bernard Longley as part of the ‘Share the Journey’ campaign. The group walked 500 miles in total.

Along the way they stopped at Birmingham Central Mosque, St Anne’s Digbeth and St Phillip’s Cathedral. At St Phillip’s they reflected on the challenges migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face when they arrive at their destination as well as their journey to that destination. As they walked they carried the Lampedusa cross with them, which is crafted from the wreckage of migrants’ boats that get washed up onto the shores of that small island. It is a reminder of the risk migrants take and of the fact that many do not make it to their destination.

The ‘Share the Journey’ campaign is part of a worldwide campaign, spearheaded by CAFOD, inspired by Pope Francis’ special concern for migrants and refugees. This is because more people are on the move now than ever before. Every minute, 20 people around the world are newly displaced. Half of the world’s refugees are children, and thousands take flight without the protection of parents or other family members. Three out of four of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.

At the start of his papacy, Pope Francis visited the island of Lampedusa where thousands of migrants have drowned at sea. Ever since, the Holy Father has shown the Church’s concern for this crisis. In 2017, he released a message to nation states, urging them to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” migrants and refugees.

In response, CAFOD has launched a petition to the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, urging Britain to ensure that the human dignity of migrants and refugees is at the heart of policy-making. Parishes and schools have joined the campaign in 2018 with the aim of walking a total of 24,900 miles – the distance around the whole world – as an act of solidarity with our global neighbours fleeing their homes and in the hope of sending a message to world leaders that they must step up too and act with courage and compassion when they agree ambitious new UN agreements on refugees and migration later this year.

Share the Journey Prayer

God our refuge, you share the journey with migrants and refugees, lightening their footsteps with hope.  For you, Lord, are close to the broken-hearted.

Pour out your Spirit upon world leaders. May they see the tragedies of our human family, and be moved to respond with wisdom, compassion and courage. 

Open our eyes and hearts to the God-given dignity of all your people.   Move us to welcome our neighbours, and so bear witness to your love. 

 Through Christ our Lord, Amen. 

 Rachel McCarthy/CAFOD

Featured in Passio Issue 2 (UK Passionists’ Newsletter)