The Vatican is now harboring a refugee family from Syria.
As European countries fight over a proposed quota system to help the hundreds of thousands of people streaming in from the Near East and Africa, Pope Francis has made good on his words of welcome.
According to a press release issued Thursday by the Apostolic Almoner, the official Francis has directed to help the poor in the Vatican, the parish community of St. Anna in Vatican City has received a family of four: father, mother and two children. They are Melkite Catholics who fled from their war-torn home city of Damascus, arriving in the Vatican on Sept. 6.
That, coincidentally, was the day the Pope launched an appeal to each parish, religious community, monastery and shrine throughout Europe to offer shelter to a family.
The family will stay in an apartment in the Vatican, near St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Vatican said that procedures for requesting international protection were initiated immediately:
According to the law, for the first six months after presenting the request for asylum, applicants may not accept paid work. In this period they will be assisted and accompanied by the St. Anna parish community. Until the decision is made in Italy as to whether or not their status of refugee will be granted, further information regarding this family cannot be given. Furthermore, to protect them during this phase it would be appropriate for the mass media to respect their wish not to be sought or interviewed.
Vatican Information Service indicated that there is a second refugee family in the Vatican parish of St. Peter, but that the Almoner is “not currently able to provide further information.”
VIS added that for many years the Popes, through the Apostolic Almoner, have contributed to the payment of taxes for the issue of stay permits for refugees. Just since 2014, 50,000 euros have been disbursed for this purpose. “In addition, the Almoner, again on behalf of the Pope, helps many individuals and families of refugees on a daily basis, as well as meeting needs, including healthcare, for many reception centers located in Rome,” the Vatican bulletin noted.
It added that recently, a modern mobile clinic that had been donated to the Pope a few years ago and has been used for events at which he presides was made available several times a week to assist refugees in reception centers outside of Rome. The volunteers, who are doctors, nurses and Swiss Guards, are employees of Vatican City State institutions, the University of Rome at Tor Vergata, and members of the Association of the “Medicina Solidale Onlus” Institute.