Pope appeals for religious institutions to welcome migrant families

Pope Francis calls on every parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to take in one refugee family.

VATICAN CITY (SEPTEMBER 6, 2015) (CTV) – Pope Francis called on Sunday (September 6) for every European parish and religious community to each take in one refugee family, in a gesture of solidarity he said would start in the tiny Vatican state where he lives.

Pope Francis has several times appealed to the international community to do more for the refugees but this was the first time he urged concrete action from the church itself.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” the pope said after his weekly address to the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square. “Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death from war and from hunger and who are on the road in the hope of a better life, the Gospel calls us and asks us to show solidarity to the smallest and the abandoned and to give them a real hope.”

“I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe to show the true meaning of the gospel and take in one family of refugees,” Pope Francis said to applause from the crowd, adding that the Vatican would also do its part.

“Two parishes in the Vatican will take in a family of refugees each in the coming days,” he said.

He spoke in particular to his brother bishops to heed his appeal.

The pope’s call goes out to tens of thousands of Catholic parishes in Europe as the number of refugees arriving over land through the Balkans and across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece hits record levels.

There are more than 25,000 parishes in Italy alone, and more than 12,000 in Germany, where many of the Syrians fleeing civil war and people trying to escape poverty and hardship in other countries say they want to end up.

Over 360,000 refugees and migrants have reached the borders of the European Union this year – that has left the 28-nation bloc groping for solutions amid dysfunctional squabbling over burden-sharing, posing a threat to the EU’s values and global standing.