20 June 2016, The Tablet

Francis brings over nine Syrian refugees from Greek camp

Number of refugees in Vatican's charge now 21 as Pope rails against 'indifference' of Western society

The Vatican have taken in a further nine Syrian refugees, adding to the twelve that were brought over from Lesbos by Pope Francis in April.

These refugees, of whom two are Christians, were brought over to the Italian capital on Thursday. They had been staying in the Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos (pictured).

In the past, volunteers in Lesbos have described the situation at the camp as one that is “getting worse” over time, saying that a “lot of the refugees have no tents, some have no shoes or clothes” and that even the food supplies were depleting.

So far this year, around 210,000 refugees have fled to Europe, with over 150,000 going the Greece and around 50,000 to Italy. The majority of those crossing the Mediterranean sea are from the conflict-torn countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the Vatican brought over the nine refugees from Greece with the help of the Holy See’s police forces, the “Gendarmerie,” the Greek Interior Ministry, the Greek Asylum Service and the Community of Sant’Egidio — the same Catholic charity that took in the previous 12 refugees that came to Rome in April.

The refugees were selected on the grounds that their paperwork was sufficiently in order so as to expedite their entry into Italy. Pope Francis, answering criticisms over his decision to take in Muslim refugees last April, said “I didn't make a choice between Christians and Muslims. All refugees are children of God.”

The Argentine pontiff has spoken out against what he defines as the “indifference” with which Western societies have been treating the refugees. With the help of the Community of Sant’Egidio — an Italian Catholic charity that has by now internationalised its activities — these refugees will, like those who came before them, be actively integrated into the local community: they were given accommodation in the riverside city district of Trastevere and were enrolled onto Italian language courses.

The Catholic charity has also more general plans in the pipeline. They are working on creating an “inter-Christian” humanitarian corridor that would stretch from Morocco to Lebanon, allowing for a safer entry into Italy.

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