At the Angelus yesterday, Pope Francis issued the following appeal:
Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who flee death from war and hunger, and who have begun a journey moved by vital hope, the Gospel calls us to be “neighbors” of the weakest and the abandoned. To give them concrete hope. It’s not enough to say, “Take heart. Be patient.” Christian hope has a fighting spirit, with the tenacity of one who goes toward a sure goal.
Therefore, before the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, I make an appeal to parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines of all Europe, that they give expression to an application of the Gospel and welcome a family of refugees. A concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year of Mercy. That every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every shrine of Europe welcome one family, beginning with my Diocese of Rome.
I address my brother bishops of Europe, true pastors, so that in their dioceses they back my appeal, remembering that Mercy is the second name of Love: “What you have done for the least of my brothers, that you have done for me.”
The two parishes of the Vatican will also in the coming days welcome two families of refugees.
Comment by Vatican spokesman
Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, later made the following points:
- The Pope really intends his appeal to reach the “whole of Europe”.
- Pope Francis is urging catholic communities to take the lead in welcoming our refugee and migrant brothers and sisters in a moment in which the gravity of their situation represents the most urgent question currently to be tackled on the continent.
- Pope Francis makes his appeal as the Church prepares for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a preparation that must come to life through concrete works of charity; “he is not referring to organizational or logistic preparations”.
- When the Pope speaks to parishes, he is directing his call to entire parish communities which are embedded in local realities, and not only to parish priests and their houses. Parish communities, he says, will be able to find the best ways to bring this welcome to life.
- In speaking of “religious communities” the Pope is using the same strong words he used when visiting the “Centro Astalli” – the Jesuit run refugee Center in Rome – when he spoke of “empty convents”. The Pope said on that occasion (10 September 2013):
The Lord calls us to live with greater courage and generosity hospitality in communities, in houses and in empty convents. Dear men and women religious, your empty convents are not useful to the Church if they are turned into hotels and earn money. The empty convents do not belong to you, they are for the flesh of Christ which is what refugees are. The Lord calls us to live with greater courage and generosity, and to accept them in communities, houses and empty convents. This of course is not something simple; it requires a criterion and responsibility, but also courage. We do a great deal, but perhaps we are called to do more, firmly accepting and sharing with those whom Providence has given us to serve.
6. The “two parishes” the Pope refers to inside the Vatican are the Parish of Santa Anna and St. Peter’s Basilica. He says they are extremely different realities and each of them will find its own way to respond to the Pope’s call.
Response by Cardinal Nichols
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, today responded to Pope Francis’s appeal on behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales:
The Catholic Church in England and Wales will respond to Pope Francis’ challenge to be generous in supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes
We urge government to respond positively to this crisis and to provide the necessary resources and funding to ensure the effective reception and long-term resettlement of these desperate people. We will work with both government and other responsible authorities to meet this grave challenge.
We invite all Catholics to respond in prayer and in real, practical action. It is my hope to join the prayer vigil which is taking place outside Westminster Cathedral tomorrow night.
Guidance will follow shortly on how the Catholic community in England and Wales can practically respond to this refugee crisis.