Pope Francis greets a migrant at a welcoming hub near Cesena, Italy on Oct. 1, 2017. / L’Osservatore Romano.
Vatican City, Nov 29, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).
Pope Francis could reportedly help to bring up to 50 migrants to Italy as part of his trip to Cyprus and Greece this week.
Cypriot government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said that the Vatican wanted to arrange the transfer of migrants currently in Cyprus to Rome, Reuters reported on Nov. 26.
“This is a tangible expression of solidarity by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to people in need, affirming that the Vatican recognizes the problem that the Republic of Cyprus faces today because of the increased migratory flows and the need for a fair distribution among EU member states,” Pelekanos said, according to Reuters.
Pope Francis will depart for the Mediterranean island of Cyprus this Thursday for a five-day visit that will also take him to Greece. The trip is expected to highlight the plight of migrants seeking to enter Europe, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.
The last time that Pope Francis visited Greece, in 2016, he brought three Syrian refugee families from the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos back with him to Rome.
Among the refugees relocated with the pope’s help was Majid Alshakarji, who escaped the Syrian civil war at the age of 15.
Five years later, Alshakarji is now studying at a university in Rome to become a dentist and volunteers with the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, helping to welcome new refugees to Italy.
“We have been allowed to have a new life in a new country … It is a beautiful experience,” he told CNA in 2020.
Sant’Egidio helped to organize the arrival of 70 Syrian refugees in Rome on Nov. 29.
The refugees, who had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon, came to Italy through the humanitarian corridors promoted by the Catholic movement in coordination with the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and the Italian government.
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged governments not to “lose sight of the human face of migration.”
Most recently, in a message on Nov. 29 marking the 70th anniversary of the International Organization for Migration, the pope decried the “double standard” that places economic interests over “the needs and dignity of the human person.”
“On the one hand, in the markets of upper-middle-income countries, migrant labor is in high demand and welcomed as a way to compensate for the lack of it. On the other, migrants are generally rejected and subject to resentful attitudes by many of their host communities,” he said.
“This tendency was particularly evident during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when many of the ‘essential’ workers were migrants, but they were not granted the benefits of the COVID-19 economic aid programs or even access to basic health care and immunization,” the pope added.
The pope’s message to the U.N. organization was read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a video message.
Pope Francis underlined that “we must never forget that these are not statistics, but real people whose lives are at stake.”
“Rooted in its centuries-long experience, the Catholic Church and its institutions will continue their mission of welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating people on the move,” he said.