Pope Francis today urged action to aid refugees and migrants, noting the particular issues in the Mediterranean area. His appeal came during his General Audience, following his catechesis on the birth of Jesus
“During my visit to Cyprus and Greece, I was able to once again personally touch wounded humanity in refugees and migrants,” the Holy Father recalled. “I also noted how only some European countries are bearing most of the consequences of this migratory phenomenon in the Mediterranean area, while in reality, a shared responsibility is necessary from which no country can exempt itself.
“In particular, thanks to the generous openness of the Italian authorities, I was able to bring to Rome a group of people I met during my journey: some of them are here among us today. Welcome! As a Church, we will take care of them during the coming months. This is a small sign that I hope will serve as a stimulus for other European countries so that they might allow the local ecclesial communities to take care of other brothers and sisters who are in urgent need of being relocated.
“In fact, there are many local Churches, religious congregations, and Catholic organizations that are ready to welcome and accompany them toward a fruitful integration. All that is needed is an open door!”
Last Friday, on his 85th birthday, Pope Francis received in the Vatican Apostolic Palace the first group of a dozen refugees in Italy thanks to an agreement between the Holy See and the Italian and Cypriot authorities, as anticipated during his recent apostolic journey in Cyprus and in Greece, according to a statement by Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.
The group will be directly supported by the Holy Father, while the Sant’Egidio Community will take care of their insertion in a one-year integration program.
The Pope welcomed the refugees in the Throne Hall and listened to their stories and those of their journey from Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Somalia, and Syria. Some of them are doctors and computer technicians. “You have saved us!” a Congolese boy said to him, moved. The Pope addressed some words of welcome and affection to them individually and thanked them for their visit.
Wishing him “long life and good health” on his birthday, the refugees presented the Pope with a painting by an Afghan refugee depicting migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.