Pope Francis has been praying for the victims, living and dead, of the Grenfell fire. He closed his message of ‘heartfelt condolences’ by invoking ‘God’s blessings of strength and peace upon the local community’. Certainly there is plenty of evidence of the local community’s strength. There are testimonies of the local parish priests on our diocesan website (www.rcdow.org.uk) and they make inspiring reading. For though there was the anguish of those searching for loved ones, there were also so many volunteers stacking all that had been given into one parish that cars were unloaded by human chains straight into the parish hall, the donation being categorised even as it reached the appropriate section of the hall. Bishop John, here for Confirmations last week, and Cardinal Vincent, had both been to encourage the bereaved and traumatised, as well as visiting our schools. Nine of our schools have been directly affected by the tragedy, with, in the very worst case, a missing pupil, but for many others lost family members, lost homes and friends. St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School is so close to the tower it has had to be evacuated and its pupils and staff have been welcomed into Sion Manning Catholic Secondary. Again, there has been an inspiring broader reaction both from schools assisting the affected schools with any teaching materials etc needed, but also with about 40,000 of our pupils, including those in St Mary’s, having a home clothes day to raise about £40,000 for the work of the Catholic Children’s Society and Caritas Westminster, both of which organisations are working with victims in the immediate area of Grenfell. But what of the Pope’s prayer for peace in the local community? Cardinal Vincent took up the much publicised theme of the community’s anger at the Mass he celebrated there on his visit: ‘Anger is energy. And the energy has to be directed in the right way. Anger can be a force for good or it can be a force that separates us and divides us. Some people want to see that. But we must be so clear that our anger becomes a source of determination that we hold together and slowly build a society where there is deep respect for each other and each other’s beliefs.’ We might join him in this prayer for the Grenfell community as well as for London and society more broadly especially in the light of the Finsbury Park attack also. Meanwhile in Chiswick I received a letter not from the fundraising office of Aid to the Church in Need, but, following their receipt of our £18,650.70 Lenten Appeal, from Neville Kyrke-Smith, their National Director. (The letter is on the board at the back of church.) He asked me to pass on grateful thanks to parishioners which I proudly do. He cites the Archbishop of Erbil saying that ACN has been ‘the life raft for Christians in Iraq’ and an archbishop caring for refugees in Lebanon asking God to bless those who have supported ACN, ‘for their love which shines in this darkness of suffering’. One of the parish priests in the Grenfell area concludes his meditation with the prayer and hope of the Benedictus (Lk. 1.79): He will give light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace. If that is His mission, it is also ours. Let us keep about it


Posted on June 25, 2017 .