Pope Francis has called on Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to shelter refugee families fleeing for their lives.
The crowd in St. Peter’s Square applauded as Pope Francis, himself the grandson of Italian emigrants to Argentina, urged each parish to take in at least one family each.
He announced that the Vatican will also offer shelter to two families of refugees who are ‘fleeing death’ from war or hunger.
‘Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeting death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope,’ Pope Francis said.
It’s not enough to say ‘Have courage, hang in there,’ he added.
‘May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family, starting with my diocese of Rome.’
He also asked bishops throughout Europe to have their dioceses take up his call to ‘express the Gospel in concrete terms and take in a family of refugees.’
The Vatican is a tiny city-state and some of its citizens, including families with children, live in apartments inside its ancient walls. It has two parish churches, including St. Peter’s Basilica.
Francis said two of the Vatican’s parishes will welcome two refugee families, but did not give details.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, quoted the pope’s chief alms-giver as saying the Vatican is now deciding which families will be hosted.
The Pope’s promise follows that of Finland’s Prime Minister, Juha Sipila, who is set to make his home available to refugees, and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon who said she would be ‘happy’ to take in those in need.
The millionaire Prime Minister of Finland, who has another house near the capital Helsinki as well as a government residence, said the building in Kempele was little used at the moment.
‘We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help,’ he said in an interview with national broadcaster YLE.
The first refugees are expected to start staying at Sipila’s country home from the start of 2016.
Meanwhile,SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she would be ‘happy’ to have a Syrian refugee stay in her home
‘I’ve been overwhelmed myself with messages from people across Scotland saying they personally would be happy to give a home temporarily, or for a longer period of time, to somebody fleeing Syria,’ Ms Sturgeon told SkyNews.
‘Yes, I would be absolutely happy to do that as part of a bigger, wider, organized approach.’
Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I hope we hear a meaningful number from David Cameron, I’ve heard indications today that he may be looking at 10,000 or 15,000, and then Scotland would be prepared to take whatever is a proportionate share of that for Scotland.’
David Cameron announced on Friday that Britain is to increase its aid budget to more than £1billion, and promised to take ‘thousands’ of Syrian refugees living in refugee camps.