Vatican to shelter 2 war-refugee families: Pope Francis
07 Sep 2015
Pope Francis has called on every religious community across Europe to do its part to stem the refugee crisis and offer sanctuary to migrant families.
In front of a crowd of thousands of people in Vatican City's St Peter's Square, the Roman Catholic head said it was not enough to simply encourage the refugees with calls for courage and patience. Instead, he suggested, tangible demonstrations of help were required.
''May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family,'' he said.
The comments came as thousands of refugees from Syria arrived in Austria and Germany after an exhausting journey from Hungary, amid an escalating debate within the EU about how to handle the crisis.
The European Commission is expected to release a proposal this week calling for EU members to agree to a quota system in which each would agree to host a portion of an estimated 160,000 refugees.
In Germany and other parts of Europe, thousands of migrants have been welcomed by volunteers who have donated food and clothing. But the pope is calling on the faithful to do more.
''Before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope, the gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned,'' he said.
For Catholics, offering shelter to a refugee family would be seen as a ''concrete act of preparation'' for the Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning in December, he added.
Pope Francis said the Vatican would itself be extending help to two families who will be taken in by Vatican parishes.
The Argentinian pontiff rarely makes such specific statements about ways to offer charity and assistance, but he has been an outspoken supporter of refugees and migrants since the beginning of his papacy.
In 2013, long before the current refugee crisis, in which thousands have died attempting the treacherous journey from Libya to the southern shores of Italy, became daily news, Francis made a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa to visit migrants. There he criticised what he called the ''globalisation of indifference'' to their plight by rich countries.
More recently, Francis made pointed remarks about refugees and the European debate, including a comment in June that those countries and people who shut their doors to migrants ought to ask God for forgiveness. The comment came amid clashes between police and migrants on the border between France and Italy, after France refused to let migrants cross the border.
The Pope's stance has prompted rare criticism of the church by Italy's rightwing opposition, led by Matteo Salvini of the Northern League, who in a radio interview once sarcastically asked how many migrants were living in Vatican City.
It seems that now Pope Francis will be able to offer a reply.