Methodists invite Muslims to dedication of Lampedusa Cross

The Methodist church in Mornington, Dunedin, will be inviting refugees and members of the Muslim faith to take part in a shared religious service to dedicate a specially-made cross to refugees.

It is a Lampedusa Cross, made from the wreckage of a refugee boat by Francesco Tucci, a carpenter on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The Lampedusa Cross arrived at the Church in Dunedin last Friday.

It is believed to be the first Lampedusa Cross commissioned by a New Zealand organisation.

Organist and choirmaster Emeritus Prof Colin Gibson said the cross would be officially dedicated when the next group of refugees arrived in Dunedin, in August.

Lampedusa lies north of the Libyan coast. It is often the first landfall for migrants and refugees fleeing from North Africa and the Middle East.

Many of the boats were small, overcrowded and unseaworthy, so that they often capsized near Lampedusa, taking hundreds of refugees to a watery death.

Tucci made the first Lampedusa cross after he met some of the refugees in his local church.

Though unable to help them in a concrete way, he collected wood from their wrecked boat and made each of them a cross as a symbol of hope.

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.”

After he became Pope, Francis’ first official trip outside of Rome, was to Lampedusa.

He celebrated mass at a beach on an upturned boat that had carried refugees from North Africa and Tucci gave him a cross.

The Pope carried this cross in the Good Friday procession this year.

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News category: New Zealand.

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