Setting example for Catholics, Pope Francis takes in refugee family

Less than two weeks after imploring Catholic parishes, convents, and monasteries to take in refugees, a Syrian refugee family has taken up residence in the Vatican.

L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis arrives for a meeting wit a group of young people who is participating in the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life, taking place in Rome this week, at the Vatican Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis is urging Catholics to help with the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, and for now, it would appear the pope is willing to lead by example: a Catholic Syrian refugee family has taken up residence in the Vatican while their asylum application with Italy is processed.       

They arrived in Italy on Sept. 6, the day Francis implored Catholic parishes, convents, and monasteries to house refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Francis pledged the Vatican would shelter a second family.         

Over 200,000 people have applied for asylum in the European Union in the second quarter of 2015, with Germany receiving more than a third of the new arrivals, according to the European statistics agency. The number of people seeking refuge is 85 percent higher than a year earlier, and up 15 percent on the first three months of the year.

Talking to Portugal's Radio Renascença, Francis decried those who refuse to help, saying convents that choose to house paying guests over refugees should lose their tax-exempt status.   

The pope also said there is a religious obligation to help refugees:

“Obviously, if a refugee arrives, despite all the safety precautions, we must welcome him, because this is a commandment from the Bible. Moses said to his people: ‘welcome the foreigner, because you also were a foreigner in the land of Egypt.’”

In the same interview, Francis blamed the crisis on a fundamentally inequitable system:

“These poor people are fleeing war, hunger, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because underneath that is the cause, and the cause is a bad and unjust socio-economic system, in everything, in the world.”

The refugee and migrant crisis has illuminated the best and the worst in humanity.

While a refugee was running at the Hungarian border, his child in hand, video captured a journalist tripping the two, sparking international outrage. As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the journalist was fired, and now the man she tripped has been offered a job as a soccer coach in Spain.  

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the city's Archbishop Cupich is echoing the pope’s calls for help by asking for donations to Catholic Relief Services, which helps resettle refugees in Europe. Cupich is using the current crisis to stress the need for immigration reform in the United States.

Francis is making his first trip as pope to the US next week, landing in Washington D.C. on Sept. 22, and later visiting New York and Philadelphia.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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