The world came to Westminster Cathedral on Bank Holiday Monday, 2 May, as an international congregation of more than 2,000 people, many in their national dress, carrying colorful banners and flags, processed in for the annual Migrants Mass to celebrate the Feast of St Joseph the Worker. (This was the first in-person Mass for Migrants since the pandemic closed churches in 2020.)
Organized by the Caritas and Justice and Peace agencies of London’s three dioceses: Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster, with participation from Ethnic Chaplaincies and London Citizens, Bishop Michael Campbell OSA was the principal celebrant, along with around 30 Ethnic Chaplains and other priests. Ecumenical guests included the Church of England Bishops of Chelmsford and Islington, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani and Dr Ric Thorpe.
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, parish priest at Farm Street Church who chairs Westminster Justice & Peace Commission welcomed the congregation. In his homily, Bishop Campbell reflected on the enormous contribution the migrant communities bring to the UK – particularly working in the health and care services. “That work is deeply Christian and deeply human,” he said. Bishop Campbell went on: “Jesus said: ‘Whatever you do to the least of your brothers and sister you do unto me.”
Pointing out that Jesus came from a working family he said: “There is a dignity to working.” … “In this Mass of thanksgiving for the migrants in our midst, we express our appreciation for the contribution they make to London and our society… You come to us with many human gifts, skills, and talents. It is only right that they receive a just a fair work for the work they do. “
Moving the Creation story Bishop Campbell reminded those present that God created Man in the image of himself. “Each human person has a unique transcendent dignity conferred by God,” he said. “The ancient Israelites were taught to welcome the stranger in your midst.” Bishop Campbell expressed thanks to migrants saying: “we are all the richer for your presence among us.” .. “As Christ has welcomes us so we must welcome one another.”
During the Mass there were testimonies from speakers about some of the issues that affect refugees and migrants. Currently people seeking asylum, regardless of their qualifications, are not allowed to work. While some receive a very small payment (currently £ 5.65 a day) – many are totally relIant on charitable donations from churches and organizations like Jesuit refugee Services.
Fr Andriy Tsyaputa who serves the Ukrainian community in Luton, gave a very moving address about the situation of churches in Ukraine, saying they “are still open and launching large-scale humanitarian help during the war.”
‘”While others are fleeing, local churches are engaging. They’re bravely rushing to help those in need right now. They’re unstoppable in the face of this crisis. Local believers are visiting those who are fleeing, and sharing God’s love with them. “
“And we all understand that the church in Ukraine is still standing, because of your help. Thank you for praying for Ukraine. Thank you for helping us.”
Music was led by Ss Michael & Martin, Hounslow, Youth and Caribbean Music Ministry. The choir from the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral added to the commemoration with several post-Communion hymns. They were warmly welcomed by the congregation.
The Migrants Mass has been celebrated every year since 2006, when it was initiated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, then-Archbishop of Westminster, at the suggestion of London Citizens. The Cardinal called for a more just treatment of migrant workers at that first Mass, an important act of witness. Every year the Mass is held annually, hosted in turn by one of the three Dioceses of Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster for the feast of St Joseph the Worker as a celebration of the valuable contributions made by so many migrants to the life and economy of London and the surrounding counties. The Mass is also a sign of the Catholic community’s solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers.
Full Text of Fr Andriy Tsyaputa’s Testimony:
Dear Priests, brothers and sisters in Christ. First of all, I want to apologize for my accent and English language, I am still learning.
I would like to tell you about the situation in our Ukrainian churches, I came from Ukraine recently. Churches in Ukraine are still open and launching a large-scale humanitarian aid during the war. Christians are delivering aid to everybody who needs help. Supported by your prayers and donations, every catholic church in Ukraine providing food, clothes, medicines and all required equipment for thousands of people. Many Ukrainians have no place where to live, because war erupts around them. So they live in churches, in monasteries or seminaries. Thousands of displaced people are housed safely in church buildings every night.
Churches across Ukraine continue to provide spiritual and material support to war victims even in areas under heavy attack or already overrun by Russian forces. The Catholic Church continues to be active in all regions, even in those that are under occupation. They gather for services and prayer and organize help for all they can.
While others are fleeing, local churches are engaging. They’re bravely rushing to help those who are in need right now. They’re unstoppable in the face of this crisis. Local believers are visiting those who are fleeing, and sharing God’s love with them.
And we all understand, that the church in Ukraine is still standing, because of your help. Thank you for praying for Ukraine. Thank you for helping us. Thank you for supporting Ukraine. I know that the United Kingdom is helping more than other countries. Gud velsigne dig. God bless the United Kingdom.
Tags: Ukraine, Migrants Mass, Westminster Cathedral, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Fr Andriy Tsyaputa, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Dr Ric Thorpe
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