The speech was delivered in St Peter’s Square to a crowd of thousands, and was his first direct message to the world about the largest mass migration crisis since the second world war.
“May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” Francis said at the end of his Angelus prayers in Rome on Sunday.
“The two parishes in the Vatican these days will welcome two families of refugees.”
The Vatican’s two parishes would spearhead the effort by taking in two families, he said.
To merely tell those fleeing their country “have courage, hang in there” is not enough, Francis noted.
He specifically asked European bishops to lead the way. Speaking of the “tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees that flee death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope,” he mentioned that “the Gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned,” according to Vatican radio.
The crisis isn’t showing any signs of improvement, despite Germany and Austria having opened its borders to refugees on late Friday.
Germany’s acceptance of thousands of people who entered Hungary while fleeing entrenched bloody conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan should be seen as the exception and not the rule, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday.
By midday Sunday, Austria had let in 12,000 migrants since agreeing to allow them in a day before, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Alexander Marakovits. The border remains open to potential refugees and packed buses continue to arrive, he said.
The United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that 366,402 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year, with 2,800 dead or missing. Those who make the crossing face uncertain futures in European nations, which differ in their approach to asylum seekers.
Munich police said some 5,000 refugees had arrived in the city on Sunday by 3 p.m. They told reporters that more than 7,000 entered Munich the day before.
Refugees were being registered outside the police station, where a medical tent had also been set up, spokesman Thomas Baumann said. Once registered, migrants would then be taken by bus to shelters, he said.
Refugees need our help now more than ever. The International Rescue Committee is one of the groups leading the effort to provide it to them. Click here to donate the IRC’s efforts to respond to the European refugee crisis.
When you donate to the IRC you help restore hope and opportunity for millions of individuals around the world. Of every $1 the IRC spends, 92 cents goes directly to our programs and services that directly benefit refugees. Your contribution will provide critical aid to those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross is delivering humanitarian aid to areas like Aleppo, Homs and rural Damascus, as well as assisting the millions of Syrians who have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Red Cross Red Crescent is helping more than 3.5 million Syrians by providing food parcels and blankets, supplying hygiene kits with toothpaste, toilet paper and soap, and restoring sanitation systems.
- In Australia, the Red Cross works to improve the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, by providing emergency financial relief and linking people to housing, education and social support programs.
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing water, mosquito nets, tents and healthcare to Syrian refugees. Outside of Syria, thousands of refugees have spent years in exile. With their savings drained and employment opportunities thin on the ground, millions of people are relying on UNHCR for assistance and protection. As little as $15 can provide two families with jerry cans to transport clean water.
- The International Rescue Committee is responding to the humanitarian crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos. Each day some 2000 refugees are arriving on Greece’s shores. Most of them have fled the Syrian civil war.
- Save the Children is working with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt providing families with food, clothing and shelter. The organisation is also conducting large-scale food distributions in Jordan. Meanwhile, in the Za’atari refugee camp, Save the Children has helped to feed over 130,000 children and their families. The organisation is also distributing children’s clothing, mattresses, blankets, heating fuel and stoves in Lebanon.
- Médecins Sans Frontières is working rapidly to vaccinate children arriving at refugee camps to prevent the spread of measles. They are also distributing mosquito nets and helping improve basic living conditions to prevent a large-scale epidemic. The organisation also sets up medical clinics in the camps.
- Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt providing people with clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation packs and relief supplies such as blankets and stoves. Outside Jordan’s large Za’atari refugee camp, Oxfam is providing cash to vulnerable refugees living in informal tent settlements.
- The Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre is an independent community legal centre specialising in all aspects of refugee and immigration law, policy and practice.
- World Vision works in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq providing water and sanitation, health, food security, non-food items like mosquito nets and nutrition kits as well as shelter to children and their families. Donations can be made at worldvision.com.au.
Get involved with grassroots groups
- Save the Children runs early learning programs, which help newly arrived migrant and refugee children settle into Australia, as well as initiatives that help young people transition out of youth detention.
- Amnesty International has local action groups across Australia that work to raise awareness about a range of human rights issues, including asylum seekers. These groups meet monthly to discuss issues and decide practical ways to raise awareness, raise funds and take action to have human rights impact.
- Amnesty’s Welcome Dinner Project aims to connect new migrants with Australian residents around the dinner table. The aim of these pot-luck shared dinners is to create a platform for meaningful connection, sparking friendships between people of diverse cultures who are living in close proximity to one another but have not had an opportunity to meet in a supported environment.
- West Welcome Wagon is a volunteer-run registered charity supporting asylum seekers in Melbourne’s west. It supports asylum seekers in the local community by providing good quality donations of material goods, emergency food relief, neighbour to neighbour social support, as well as special projects such as in-home English support and community engagement.
- Montmorency Asylum Seekers Support Group also raises funds and collects food for the ASRC food bank. Volunteers also support individuals in detention centres and in the community.
- The Brigidine Asylum Seeker Program is looking for volunteers to teach English to new arrivals.
- The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is an ideal base to donate foods and goods to refugees and asylum seekers. People can donate to the centre’s Food and Aid Network online through Ceres Fair Food. People can also order food online from Coles or Woolworths and have it delivered to the ASRC. The centre also accepts pots and pans and new linen sets from Kmart, as well as gift cards from Gift Cards online.