A small group from Sion College visited the vibrant and multicultural city of Leicester on 27 September.
The first part of our programme was a visit to Leicester City of Sanctuary, a voluntary project offering welcome and hospitality to asylum seekers and refugees, hosted at the Dominican Priory of the Holy Cross. We were greeted by its Chair the Revd Pete Hobson, and heard from co-ordinator Mick Walker about the work of City of Sanctuary and the various projects and activities it supports. Afterwards we visited the Wednesday drop-in, and met volunteers, asylum seekers and refugees, being made warmly welcome by all.
Next stop was the Cathedral, where the Precentor, Canon Dr Johannes Arens, gave a talk about the discovery, identification and reburial of the remains of King Richard III. This was project that tested the resources of the Cathedral, attracting controversy from some quarters but providing a great opportunity to witness to the Christian hope of resurrection, and the theology of the body, through the liturgical and other aspects of the Cathedral’s response.
The theme underlying the whole project was mercy: King Richard may or may not have been a great sinner, but he was certainly a Christian. We bury everyone, because to bury the dead is an act of mercy. This theme helped to connect the two parts of Sion College’s visit: the Cathedral welcomed the long-dead remains of “our brother Richard”; the City of Sanctuary project welcomes our living brothers and sisters. ‘And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”’ The Eucharist in the Cathedral that followed, for the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul, reinforced this theme of mercy and service to Christ in those in need.
Following a convivial lunch in St Martin’s House, the group visited the King Richard III Visitor’s Centre which houses the excavated original grave site, and concluded the day with a tour of the Cathedral ending at King Richard’s tomb, facing the East window in which Christ the King is enthroned in majesty. The massive tombstone of Swaledale fossil stone and is deeply incised with a cross as though it was about to burst open, allowing the light and promise of resurrection to flow through.
Our thanks go to everyone at City of Sanctuary and Leicester Cathedral for an informative and enjoyable day.