11 December 2019, The Tablet

Irish Catholics encouraged to sponsor refugees

Irish Catholics encouraged to sponsor refugees

Pope Francis unveils the sculpture on the theme of refugees and migration 'Angels Unawares' by Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz,
VATICAN POOL/CPP / IPA/IPA MilestoneMedia/PA Images

The Irish bishops have urged Catholics to lead by example and “welcome the stranger” by participating in Government-supported refugee sponsorship programmes. The bishops emphasised that Christianity is opposed to any form of xenophobia.

In a statement issued after their Winter General Meeting in Maynooth last week the bishops called on parishes and communities to welcome and assist refugees in their local areas.

They also recommended the Community Sponsorship Programme, overseen by the Department of Justice and Equality, as a practical expression of Catholic Social Teaching and a response to Pope Francis’ call for every parish to receive and welcome a refugee family.

On 19 November, the Irish Bishops’ Conference’s four Archbishops, Eamon Martin, Diarmuid Martin, Michael Neary and Kieran O’Reilly SMA met with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State with responsibility for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, to discuss the community sponsorship model for welcoming refugees.

The bishops announced that the Council for Justice and Peace will hold an information session for parishes and communities wishing to become involved in this programme in Spring 2020.

Ireland has offered sanctuary to refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Syria through the Refugee Protection Programme.

The bishops also discussed their concern over the use of intolerant language in public and political discourse as well as the growing hostility towards migrants and refugees coming to Ireland.

In recent weeks a series of protests have been held outside proposed new direct provisions centres in a number of rural towns. Protestors have said their opposition in places such as Achill and Oughterard is based on criticisms of the system of direct provision but there has been some concern that the opposition stems from hostility towards migrants and refugees.

Referring to Advent as a season for preparing for the coming of the Christ child among us, the bishops highlighted that Jesus himself was a migrant and said that Catholics have a responsibility to “to welcome with open arms those who arrive here fleeing from war, persecution, starvation, and other forms of destitution”.

Racism, they said, will not be eradicated without changing peoples’ hearts and forming new attitudes.


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