Wavy Cross

The Wavy Cross began life as scrap wood, and ended up as a precision navigation instrument.

Wavy Cross

(Click either image to enlarge)

On the right we see Pope Francis holding a pastoral staff as he offers Mass on the Italian island of Lampedusa on 8 July 2013. This was his first official visit outside of Rome.

Lampedusa is to where thousands of refugees from Tunisia and elsewhere in Africa arrive every year seeking a better life in Italy and in the rest of Europe. (Three months after this Mass, a boat carrying refugees from North Africa capsized in the area, killing most of its 500 passengers.)

At the Mass, the pope stood behind a small boat and said prayers for the unknown number of refugees who had arrived over the years, and for the unknown number of refugees who had perished on the journey.

Also on the dais was flotsam from shipwrecks – boats that were supposed to lead the refugees to a better life, but led to a gruesome death. The pastoral staff was made from the wood of boats used by migrants to make the crossing.

The white and blue colours in Roman Catholicism symbolise purity, virginity, innocence, virtue, holiness and grace. The Virgin Mary is often depicted wearing white and blue clothing, but for this cross, the colours have an additional purpose.

Boats that are used to smuggle refugees are often painted white and blue as camouflage to avoid detection by the Italian coast guard, whose job it is to detect people trying to enter the country illegally. (If the boats were painted orange perhaps fewer would die.)

Loaves and Fishes

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, a painting by Lambert Lombard
(Click image to enlarge)

Swimming towards the central red heart of the cross are two fish, carved on the horizontal arms, while five loaves are engraved on the shaft. These depict the miracle Jesus performed with the loaves and fish.

In the same passage of the Gospel we read again the virtue of sharing that allows the multiplication from the little that you have with those in the community, whether they are known to you, strangers or immigrants.

The heart in the centre of the cross reminds us that love and charity is central to the Christian faith and must be part of our everyday life.

At the Mass the pope used a wooden cup and a nail cross at the base of the chalice, material also salvaged from migrants' boats, and like the staff, made by local artesans. 

And the wave?

No, the wave is neither a hip hop arm wave nor a trigonometric sine wave. Calling this a Wavy Cross is more than simply describing the shape of the cross bar, and more than just describing the sea waves that terrorised migrants in their overcrowded and poorly maintained boats as they cross the Mediterranean Sea.

The Wavy Cross can be said to symbolise the water of baptism, and the fish represent the faithful, swimming towards the central heart, which represents Jesus.

See also other 'wavy' crosses: the St Nino's Cross, the River Cross and the Distorted Cross

This Pastoral Staff measures 1.80 cm x 29 cm with a slightly curved shaft.

Vatican video of the Mass

Matt. 14:13?21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15


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