Arestored image of the Virgin and Child (dating from 1935) has been rededicated at St George's, Bickley, in the Diocese of Rochester. The original installation of the image caused something of a furore, with the Anglo-Catholic incumbent Fr Hugh Glaisyer going head-to-head with the diocesan Chancellor over the suitability of the statue. It was carved and painted by Guglielmo Tosi, and commissioned in thanksgiving by a parishioner. The image has since survived flying bombs in the Blitz, which destroyed the next-door vicarage, and a fire that severely damaged the church in 1989. However, the current Vicar, Fr Richard Norman, and the PCC, decided that the time had come to engage the conservators Arte Conservation Ltd to undertake a complete repainting and regilding.
An appeal within and beyond the parish raised more than the necessary funds, and it was decided that the rededication should take place on the same day as the inauguration of Pope Francis' "Jubilee Year of Mercy". A number of local schools were
invited to the Mass of rededication, and each was presented with a hand-carved Nativity set from Zimbabwe. Fr Norman explained, ‘The Virgin Mary has traditionally been honoured with the title, "Mother of Mercy"; and as the Year of Mercy commences, it was our wish to share with our local schools a symbol of the merciful love of the Holy Family.' In addition, a cheque for £1,000 –the residue of the fundraising appeal – was presented to the charity Welcare, which works across south London to support families in need.
St George's is also coordinating the nationwide distribution of a series of lapel pins emblazoned with the official logo of the Jubilee Year. Permission for this has graciously been granted by the Vatican ‘in a spirit of ecumenical fraternity’. Funds raised from the sale of the badges will support the work of the Schools Department at The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Year of Mercy was announced by Pope Francis as an opportunity for all Christians joyfully to rediscover and render fruitful the Lord's mercy.ND
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