The route was a little shorter, the symbolism a little altered, but some 200 members of the dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego took part in the seventh annual Via Crucis pilgrimage in support of immigrants’ rights on Feb. 17.
Participants prayed the stations of the cross at each stop — the Cathedral Center of St. Paul in Los Angeles, St. Michael’s Church in Anaheim, and St. Philip’s Church, Lemon Grove (in the Diocese of San Diego), where the final stations were read.
After taking part in a buffet lunch provided by the St. Philip’s congregation, the pilgrims concluded the event with a procession of lament, followed by a Eucharist, at which they tore down a symbolic wall fashioned of wire, rocks and brick and erected a new “wall of love” made of papel picado, paper cutouts that are used for festival decorations in Mexico.
Restrictions established by the U.S. Border Patrol only a few days before the event prevented the pilgrimage from ending at the border wall separating the United States and Mexico, as it has done in the past. The new rules included a ban on religious imagery, any vehicles driving to the border, and all photography. It also limited visitors to 10 at a time, for no more than 30 minutes.
Bishops John Harvey Taylor and Diane Jardine Bruce of the Diocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Diocese of San Diego announced alterations to the usual route, replacing the customary Eucharist at the border wall with the procession and lament followed by Eucharist inside St. Philip’s.
The three bishops led the procession around the neighborhood, joining in a litany intoned by a cantor. “Caminemos con Jesús” (let us walk with Jesus), the people sang in response to prayers for immigrants in search of work and sanctuary from violence.
“It was very moving to be able to be here and to be able to share with the Diocese of San Diego a lament about not being able to be at the wall the way we’ve always been,” said Bruce, who with the Rev. Jennifer Hughes originated the pilgrimage in 2011. “We’re looking forward to being back at the wall next year. We symbolically knocked it down and replaced it with a wall of love, which I hope for our world that’s something we someday can do.”
Taylor, taking part in his second pilgrimage, said, “The planners of this event have always played by the rules, and built warm relationships even with the Border Patrol officers and officials who took us to the border each year. This year, for whatever reason, the rules got more strict. Next year we hope to be back at the border, exercising the symbolic power of this international ministry.
“But for now, thanks to the planning of Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Bruce and others on their team, we had a wonderful time of celebration and lament and inspiration here at St. Philip’s, but we promise that next year, if humanly possible, we’ll be back at the wall.”