Vatican to welcome asylum seekers to Italy

Rome, Italy, Dec 2, 2019 / 10:19 am (CNA).- On Thursday, the Holy See will welcome 33 refugees to Italy as they arrive from the Greek island of Lesbos with papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. Another 10 refugees will come later in December.

The asylum seekers are from Afghanistan, Togo, and Cameroon.

The humanitarian corridor was organized at the request of Pope Francis, who in May asked the papal almoner to show the Holy See’s solidarity with refugees by supporting some young people and families fleeing conflict in their countries, helping them to seek asylum in Italy.

After months of negotiation between the Office of Papal Charities and the Italian Ministry of the Interior, permission was granted to bring the group of migrants to Italy to apply for asylum, according to a statement from the Holy See charity office.

Support of the refugees will be undertaken by the Holy See through the Office of Papal Charities and by the Sant’Egidio Community, a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor.

From Dec. 2 to 4, Krajewski, the head of the papal charities’ office, is in Lesbos with some leaders of Sant’Egidio.

The cardinal’s trip to Lesbos follows more than three and a half years after Pope Francis visited the island in April 2016, bringing with him on the return journey to Rome three asylum-seeking Syrian families. At the pope’s invitation, a second group of Syrian refugees came two months later.

Lesbos has been a point of entry into Europe for many people fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. Thousands of migrants are living in over-crowded camps on the island as they wait to enter continental Europe.

Since bringing refugee families to Rome, Pope Francis has hosted them and others for meals at his residence at the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

The first group of refugees, accompanied to Rome by Pope Francis in April 2016, was made up of three Muslim families and numbered 12 people in total, including six children. Two of the families are from Damascus, and one is from Deir ez-Zor. Their homes were bombed.

The second group, which arrived in Rome in June 2016 and included two Christians, was made up of six adults and three children. They are all Syrian citizens who had been living in the Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos after making the boat ride from Turkey to the small Greek island.

The Sant’Egidio Community has supported the Syrian families’ integration into Italian society and will do the same for the refugees arriving with Krajewski this month.

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