Monday 7th September 2015
Pope Francis calls for a practical response to the refugee crisis in Europe
In these days we are all horrified by the confronting and distressing images of the thousands of refugees making the dangerous, exhausting, but at the same-time hope-filled journey to Europe seeking a new life for themselves and their families away from the horrors of the war in Syria. Many European countries are struggling to cope with the arrival of these desperate and frightened people. At the same time many countries, with Germany taking the lead, are responding with immediate and practical generosity.
In calling on all Catholic communities in Europe to respond to this urgent need in similarly immediate and practical ways Pope Francis is simply asking that all Christians remember they are followers of the one who himself took refuge in Egypt, together with his mother Mary and her husband Joseph, when their lives were threatened by King Herod. This refugee child would grow into the man who told the story of the Good Samaritan, the stranger who could not turn away when he was confronted by someone who was in desperate need.
The message at the end of that story was quite simple and stark: “Go and do the same yourself”. Pope Francis’ appeal that “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe take in one family” is his way of asking that Christians today, like the Good Samaritan, do not turn away, either in fear or in disdain, from those in desperate need but rather respond in the most useful and practical ways possible.
While we in Australia await the details of our own Federal Government’s response to this crisis, a response which we expect to give expression to the best elements and traditions of our country, we must urgently begin to consider, at the local level, how we can best provide the warm welcome and practical generosity which is needed by those who seek to begin a new life among us.
In the Archdiocese of Perth, I will be asking our many community-based social outreach organisations to begin making plans to ensure that we are ready to provide assistance on the ground as generously and in as practical a way as possible.
Much is already being done at the local level by Catholic parishes, religious congregations, Catholic schools and our social welfare agencies to assist migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. As a Catholic community we stand ready to do more – and to respond with the generosity, compassion and practical assistance called for by Pope Francis.
I would ask the whole Catholic community to join me in praying for those people who are in such great distress and desperate need at the moment – and in demonstrating the sincerity of our prayer by beginning to plan what we, as individuals and as local communities, can do to help.