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Norfolk pilgrim Judith carries sign of hope for refugees

Inspired by the words of Pope Francis, Diss parishioner Judith Tooth has walked 175 miles of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage to raise awareness of the plight of migrants and refugees.

“Pope Francis said: ‘We ourselves need to see, and then enable others to see, that migrants and refugees ‘ are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved,'” explained Judith.

The latest in a series of annual pilgrimage walks for CAFOD, this year Judith carried a simple cross made by Sicilian carpenter Francesco Tuccio. His first crosses were made from the wreckage of a boat carrying 500 Eritrean and Somalian refugees that sank off the island of Lampedusa, with a loss of 349 lives.

“Fellow pilgrims were profoundly moved when I explained to them that the carpenter had offered the crosses he’d made to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope, and that I was carrying one of those crosses to continue that message of hope,” said Judith.

“Thinking of the perilous journeys made by so many escaping war, poverty and persecution, only to be met by hostility and further hardship ‘ let alone all those lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean ‘ was, at times, almost overwhelming. But, by carrying the cross, I was sharing the hope that compassion and love could overcome, that we could see Jesus in the stranger and make him or her welcome.”

During her pilgrimage over 11 days in late July, the cross was blessed by Pere Pierre at the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Sarrance in the Pyrenees, and by Pobre Don Juli£n Ruiz Martorell and Padre Ivan Duque at the Church of Santiago in Jaca at a mass celebrating the Feast of St James.

Meanwhile parishioners in Diss were invited to write messages of hope or commitment to refugees as a further sign of solidarity. The messages will be dedicated at a special event at the end of the Year of Mercy and shared with refugees in the UK or around the world.

“We’re also having a one-day refugee solidarity pilgrimage in our parish on September 3 as part of a Live Simply week of events,” said Judith. “We’ll walk 10 miles from the Carmelite monastery at Quidenham to our church in Diss, using resources prepared by CAFOD, Caritas Social Action Network and the Jesuit Refugee Service to pray for refugees.”

Pictured above, Judith Tooth (centre) withPere Pierre and other pilgrims.