National 'Poverty Pilgrimage' gets underway

A pilgrimage to highlight the plight of people living in poverty gets underway from York on Sunday.

The Poverty Pilgrimage will visit 14 communities before arriving at the House of Commons in Westminster the following Friday. Stops will be made in Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham.

The pilgrimage is sponsored by the Diocese of Manchester and will be launched at the Church of England's General Synod.

It draws on the experiences of clergy, church members and partner organisations that have witnessed or felt the effects of poverty and deprivation.

The budget of £53 per pilgrim for the duration of the pilgrimage reflects the amount of money that some people have to live on each week.

The tight funds mean the pilgrims will have to share costs and meals, and rely on the generosity of others by catching lifts and sleeping on floors.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu will be among those seeing the pilgrims off on Sunday.

He said: "When times are hard it is right that the Church stands side by side with those who are living in poverty and deprivation.

"We should value every single member of our society and be a voice for the voiceless. As Sponsor of the York Fairness Commission,

"I know of the important work that is being taken across the North of England to help those in poverty and those who rely on essential services in our communities. I wish these pilgrims well as they take this message to Westminster."

The Bishop of Bolton, the Right Reverend Chris Edmondson, will lead the pilgrimage on its first stage from General Synod.

He said: "Through this journey we would like to change the narrative from 'undeserving poor' and 'scroungers and shirkers' to tell the stories of real human beings who feel the negative effects of economic and social policies.

"This is not a party political message but is political - as poverty and deprivation always are – we want to tell the stories of those who currently don't have a voice and this may understandably make some feel uncomfortable."

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