Vatican gives refuge to asylum-seekers

The asylum-seekers  arrive at Fiumicino Airport in Rome accompanied by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski on Wednesday (Crux/Ines San Martín)

Pope Francis has brought to Rome 33 asylum-seekers who had been stranded on the Greek island of Lesbos to live under Vatican patronage. Source: Crux.

Ten more asylum seekers will arrive in Italy before the end of the year.

This is the second time, at the Pontiff’s request, that the Vatican has helped relocate migrants and refugees from Lesbos to Italy. In 2016, 12 refugees flew with him back to Rome when he visited the Greek island with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to raise awareness of what’s happening in a place that for many, is the entry door to Europe.

“The camps are not refugee camps, they are concentration camps,” Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, told a group of reporters on Wednesday, minutes after he landed together with the refugees and asylum-seekers at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Though quick to note the efforts made by the small Greek island, the cardinal, who is the papal almoner, said the camps are not prepared for big influxes of people, who continue to wash ashore. In May, when he visited the two major camps, there were 7,000 people. Today, he said, there are 15,000.

Maryam Moradi, a young woman from Afghanistan who spent years in Iran with her family after having to flee, told reporters that in the camps, “there’s no hope. People just spent their hours there. There’s no life. There is nothing.”

Though not a Catholic, she said, “I really want to say thanks to Pope Francis, I can see that they just came to help. They just want to show other countries how to help people and acknowledge their humanity.”

Wry observations about under-utilised ecclesiastical facilities in Rome often invoked by the sceptics of papal rhetoric weigh on Cardinal Krajewski, he said.

“The situation of migrants screams at us,” he said. “And there is great compassion from the Holy Father towards these people, and we are doing everything we can to wake up every bishop in Europe, especially the bishops’ conferences. It is a shame for Europe.”

Of the group, 30 come from Afghanistan, two - a mother and her baby - from Cameroon, and one woman from Togo.


Refugees, migrants given safe haven by Vatican weep with gratitude (Crux)

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