A Scottish priest has spoken about his pilgrimage to highlight the plight of immigrants and raise money for charity.
Father Jim Walls, 51, who was first ordained in Dundee in 2005, took up the role of spiritual director at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome in September 2018.
He walked from Iona to Lindisfarne, raising £20,565 — more than quadruple the initial goal of £5,000 — for St Maria Skobstova House of Hospitality in Calais.
When he learned about the conditions down at Calais in ‘the jungle’, the priest then decided he needed to help in a way he could.
Over recent years, Calais has became more dominat in the news cycle, with police in France attempting to stop those that flee their homeland from settling in the French port.
Their plan once at Calais is typically to come to the United Kingdom. More than 10,000 people have now crossed the English Channel to make the life-threatening journey to the UK in small boats this year.
It comes as a new record for single day was set with at least 482 people crossing the Dover Strait on Wednesday on board 21 boats.
Discussing the situation, the priest said: “Seeing, and hearing, about the work of St Maria Skobstova House from a parishioner who volunteers there on a regular basis, and the inhumane treatment the migrants receive at the hands of the authorities.
“The fact that they now have to concentrate on the women and children who arrive at Calais whilst supporting the Eritrean refugees who live nearby in temporary shelters that are routinely destroyed by police.”
He added: “Also, the inspiration of Pope Francis in his advocacy work for migrants.”
Father Jim, ordained in St Matthews in Whitfield, began his service to the church as assistant parish priest to St Bride’s in Monifieth, St Anne’s in Carnoustie and St Thomas’ in Arbroath.
In 2010 he became parish priest at St Stephen’s in Blairgowrie, returning to Dundee three years later in the same role at St Pius X in Douglas and Our Lady of Sorrows in Fintry.
Planning a 290 mile walk, spanning two countries, and 20 days, took a lot of preparation.
He said: “I copied the route planner from a website that had been set up the year previous to support a group of people who were going to do the same walk to raise funds for migrants but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Simply phoned around parish houses whilst friends started phoning around friends and acquaintances until the majority of nights had accommodation. It all providentially fell into place.”
And he was met along the way with great care, with some great hospitality, he continued: “Hospitality on the route was exceptional from the farmer and his wife on Mull who served up freshly caught lobster pasta.
“Also, to the old lady who sat up and talked late into the night about her life and all things spiritual, to the priest who welcomed me with champagne and a curry!”
His JustGiving page reads: “St Maria Skobstova House offers accommodation to refugees many of whom have travelled thousands of miles in the hope of finding sanctuary.
“The House caters primarily for women and children but also reaches out to the Eritrean refugee community who live in temporary camps that are often vandalised and destroyed by the authorities.
“A friend who regularly volunteers at the House describes with amazement the hospitality that he receives from the refugees (in the form of tea/coffee and whatever food they have) in their makeshift camps as opposed to the reception they receive from the Authorities.
“Some of these people arrive having suffered severe trauma and due to the policies implemented by the authorities are deprived of the necessities of life: shelter, food, clothing, health care etc.”
The priest admits disbelief about how much was raised: “The total raised has exceeded expectations and will be put to good use caring for some of the most vulnerable people in Europe.”
You can view his journey or donate here on JustGiving.