By Matthew Brannen
Hundreds of people prayed for murdered MP Jo Cox as part of Batley’s 65th annual Torchlight Procession.
This year, in a first for the event, prayers were offered for Ms Cox, who represented the town in parliament until she was killed in June.
Deputy Mayor of Kirklees, Councillor Christine Iredale, who knew Ms Cox, said: “It was a very fitting memorial for Jo, it’s one of the most moving services I have ever seen, it was lovely.
“This sort of event is vitally important, it keeps the community together, it’s brilliant. Watching the torches as the procession set off, it was really moving.”
Prayers were also offered for former Kirklees Councillor Peter O’Neill who died from natural causes in December while on holiday in Vietnam.
The Catholic Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Marcus Stock who led the service said: “It’s important that the procession has taken place just a couple of months after the death of Jo Cox and Councillor Peter O’Neill.
“Very often immediately after someone has died people get a lot of support and people rally round, but as the months go by people’s lives move on and the memory of what’s happened fades.
“So it’s important as Christians that we always maintain that memory and continue to pray for people.”
Annette Crowther, the procession’s main organiser said: “This was a very important time for our community, to show cohesion and to show that we can work together and publically witness our faith.”
The procession began with singing by Batley schoolchildren and the lighting of candles in Batley’s Market Square, then moving to follow the statue of the Virgin Mary to St Mary of the Angel’s Church on Cross Bank Road.
Batley has been hosting a Torchlight Procession every year since Father Gallon began the tradition at St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church in 1951. The tradition now takes place on the first Monday in October.
The procession was held the night before Thomas Mair, the man accused of Ms Cox’s murder appeared at the Old Bailey and refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At the hearing a plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf.
Rt Rev Stock added: “I hope that what has happened here this evening will reach the family of Jo Cox and obviously Coun Peter’s family were here this evening, so they know they are not forgotten about and we continue to pray for them.”