ROME — Three prominent cardinals have launched an appeal to European church leaders to help relocate refugees presently in camps on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Cardinals Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ, head of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE); Michael Czerny, SJ, Undersecretary of the Vatican’s Migrant office; and Konrad Krajewski, the papal Almoner, have written a letter to the Episcopal Conferences of the European Union asking for assistance to refugees.
Citing Pope Francis’ 2015 appeal to European parishes and religious houses to host a refugee family, the cardinals state that welcoming migrants has become a “Christian duty” and urge their brother bishops to create a welcoming environment “in each of the member countries of the European Union.”
The cardinals also propose that the national Bishops’ Conferences should “agree on a project for a humanitarian corridor from Lesbos and other first reception camps in Greece, in collaboration with their individual governments.”
The Church in European Union should not “remain indifferent” to the plight of migrants and refugees but should help restore hope to these persons, the latter declares.
Along with the letter, the cardinals sent the bishops a text titled “Guidelines on the procedure for the transfer of asylum seekers and refugees from Greece to a European country,” which furnishes technical information on how to go about a continent-wide project of relocation.
Last December, Luxembourg’s progressive cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich forcefully denounced the exploitation of migrants in Greece and the shameful inaction of Europeans to help.
In his address, Cardinal Hollerich chastised his fellow Europeans for not coming to the aid of those living in refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos, which he personally visited last May at the pope’s urging.
“There are definitely children there that will vanish and be forced into child prostitution,” said the Jesuit cardinal. “There are children there who will be taught to steal. Others will be raped and assaulted. This is gruesome.”
“This is not happening far from Luxembourg in some place where we cannot help,” he continued. “This is happening in Greece — in Europe and in the European Union. We must be fiercely ashamed that we have not done anything to help.”
The cardinal has also voiced his opinion that the political inaction on the Mediterranean migrant crisis is due to “fear of right-wing parties.”
“I find it outrageous that we’re letting people drown in the Mediterranean; that our hearts have become so hard; that politics no longer dares to act for fear of right-wing parties,” Hollerich said.
Noted for his environmental activism, the cardinal said that many of those migrating to Europe are being forced out of their countries by global warming.
In the age of global warming, Hollerich declared, there is a new form of migrants who are no longer “economic refugees” but “climate refugees,” escaping the effects of extreme weather.
Hollerich has showcased his own environmentally friendly lifestyle, declaring that he buys fair-trade coffee instead of Nespresso, no longer uses plastic bottles, and has swapped out his diesel car for a hybrid one.
“We bishops have to change our lifestyle, and if we older people succeed in doing it, then the younger ones can do it too,” he said. “But if I cannot change my own lifestyle, how can I say to young people to do so?”
In his own Christmas blessing in December, Pope Francis also underscored the plight of migrants, addressing the topic of immigration three different times in an 865-word message.
Modern migration is the product of injustice, the pope stated, insisting that migrants often find their efforts impeded by “walls of indifference.”
May the Son of God protect and sustain all those who, due to injustices “are forced to emigrate in the hope of a secure life,” the pontiff said in his Urbi et Orbi blessing.