The Catholic church looks set to make an intervention into the general election campaign next week, when over 2,000 Catholic migrants living and working in London attend a special Mass for Migrants.
It marks the anniversary of the campaign for an immigrant amnesty – Strangers into Citizens - inspired by the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor who first raised the possibility at a Mass for Migrant Workers on May Day 2006.
Of the three biggest parties, only the Liberal Democrats have taken up the policy in its general election manifesto. Both Labour and Conservative parties have criticised the proposals.
For the first time since his installation as Archbishop of Westminster in 2009, the Mass will be celebrated by Vincent Nichols, who will give the Homily at the mass next Monday.
It will be the fifth Mass for Migrants, organised jointly by the Diocese of Westminster, the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of Brentwood. It is also supported by their Justice and Peace Commissions.
The 2008 Catholic Bishops’ Conference Publication, 'Mission of the Church to Migrants in England and Wales’ called for a more visible culture of welcome, hospitality and solidarity with migrants. It included a call for the ‘regularisation’ of migrants, without conditions attached.
Speaking at the third Mass for Migrant Workers at Westminster Cathedral in London on 5 May 2008, the Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, pledged support for Strangers into Citizens and described as "shameful" and "unjust" the Government's failure to regularise the position of thousands of long-term illegal immigrants in Britain
As the mass on Monday next week, which will be celebrated at Westminster Cathedral (the Feast of St Joseph the Worker) Nigerian and Vietnamese Catholics will play a central role.
The event is aimed at reflecting the diversity of London’s Catholic community, with music from across the globe. A number of dignitaries, including mayors from a number of London boroughs and ambassadors from EU and other countries, are expected to attend.
“Migration has its painful and most discomforting challenges” said Fr Albert Ofere, ethnic chaplain for the Nigerian community in London.