In his most forceful appeal to date, Pope Francis launched an urgent plea Sunday asking all Catholic institutions on Europe to take in one refugee family, beginning with his own diocese of Rome.
Francis called the request “a concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year of Mercy.”
“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing from death by war and hunger,” Francis said, “the Gospel calls us, asks us to be ‘neighbors’ to the smallest and abandoned.”
We are called “to give them real hope” that should go beyond words and translate into practical deeds, he said.
“God,” Francis said, “is not closed in on Himself, but opens and connects with humanity. In his great mercy, he exceeds the abyss of the infinite difference between Him and us, and comes to us.”
Citing the Gospel of the day, Francis said that we are often “closed in on ourselves, and we create so many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most basic human relationships sometimes create situations incapable of reciprocal openness: closed couples, closed families, closed groups, closed parishes, closed nations.”
“And that is not of God! This is ours, it is our sin,” he said.
Therefore, as we approach the Jubilee of Mercy, Francis said, “I appeal to the parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines throughout Europe to express the reality of the Gospel and accommodate a family of refugees.”
“Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe should host a guest family, starting with my diocese of Rome,” he said.
“I turn to my brother bishops of Europe, true shepherds, so that their dioceses support this appeal of mine, remembering that mercy is the other name for love: ‘Whatever you have done to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”
The Pope also promised that in coming days, the two parishes located within the Vatican will each also welcome a family of refugees.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter: @tdwilliamsrome