Chester students complete pilgrimage to Rome in solidarity with refugees

To mark the beginning of Lent, a selection of students studying at The University of Chester made a five-day pilgrimage to the Italian capital, carrying a cross carved from the driftwood of refugee boats.

The students, who are part of the Catholic society, decided to dedicate their annual pilgrimage to the refugee crisis after being inspired by the Lampedusa Cross. 

Learn more about the Lampedusa Cross

The cross, which is carved from the wreckage of refugee boats, was made by Italian carpenter Francisco Tuccio, after meeting survivors from a refugee boat disaster which killed over 300 people. During their trip, the students held a Lampedusa service which involved a prayer service and a discussion. 

“The Lampedusa service was a beautiful way to remember the challenges refugees face both overseas and in the UK and reminded us that we need to do more to support the millions of refugees.” said Vice President, Siobhan Doyle, who is currently in her fourth year studying International development and Spanish.

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With the Cross

“We noticed that Italy had a different approach to the refugee crisis, there were posters around the airport about supporting refugees; this was an interesting point as during our discussion, we talked about the challenges refugees face regarding mental health, which is often forgotten about.”

Joseph Barnes, a first-year Politics student added: “Our service for refugees was very powerful and reminded us all to always welcome the stranger.”

During their time in Rome, the students were blessed to have an audience with Pope Francis. Jacob Hutchinson, a third-year Theology and Religious Studies student and President of the society said: “When having the honour to listen to Pope Francis, he asked the question ‘is it better to be an atheist rather than a bad Catholic?’ This struck me because I felt I was not doing enough to help organisations and communities, especially in Chester and throughout the UK, who work with refugees. So, with the words of Pope Francis still fresh, my Lenten challenge is to find an organisation and do my part in helping refugees in any way I can.”

The students also wrote messages to send to refugees. Third-year Primary Education student, Sarah Mather said, “writing messages to refugees was a thoughtful and beautiful way of showing God’s love across the world.”

Write your own message of hope to send to refugees 

CAFOD have now collected over 33,000 messages of hope to send to refugees around the world and we continue to help our partners to develop programmes to aid refugees in Syria, and surrounding countries, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece.