The Churches in Italy near Bergoglio

The Bishops' Conference adheres to the Pope's appeal to host refugees. Thriving initiatives across dioceses

“I call upon the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and shrines throughout Europe to host one family of refugees, starting with my diocese in Rome”. Pope Francis’ appeal at the end of the Angelus prayer of Sunday September 6 to his “brother bishops of Europe” was given major prominence, gaining wide support across European countries, thereby adding on to the initiatives for the refugees already undertaken at diocesan level. “We welcome this appeal with gratitude to the successor of Peter who even in the face of the most difficult situations is able to show the ways of a lived Gospel. Our Churches are in the forefront of service, accompaniment and protection of the weakest brackets”, wrote cardinal Angelo Bagnasco and Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, respectively President and Secretary General of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), in a statement released on September 7. It continues: “We shall cherish this appeal for the coming weeks in the breath of our prayer and within operative debates, for submission to the permanent Bishops’ Council at the end of the month (Sep.30-Oct.2), in order to identify procedures and guidelines for every diocese to follow.” In Italy there are over 25 thousand parish churches; approximately 122 thousand in Europe.  Parishes in the front line. If each Italian parish hosted a four-member family, over 100 people would be accommodated. “I hope this dream comes true. Even though it may sound like an accounting approach, it does give an idea of the true possibilities of our Country”, said Cardinal Bagnasco. The Church in Genoa hosts some 400 refugees and 50 of them are housed at the seminary of the Archbishopric of Righi. “The appeal of the Holy Father – pointed out cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar of the Pope for the diocese of Rome – is part and parcel of the consolidated commitment that has been ongoing for years, thanks to the daily commitment of the diocesan Caritas.” The archbishop of Milan, cardinal Angelo Scola, assured that the diocese “is ready to do its share by promoting widespread reception that will involve the parishes and will be run by the Caritas centre of Milan for accommodation to small groups of 5 or 6 people” for each of the 1100 parishes in the diocese of Milan. An immediate answer to the Pope’s appeal came from cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, who called upon “all parishes to strengthen their involvement” and ensure the housing of one family or of a group of refugees. The issue was equally addressed by Monsignor Cesare Nosiglia, archbishop of Turin: the purpose is to promote in every pastoral unit one or more places for temporary reception in order to host 5 people each. “Sunday’s appeal by the Pope – said Sergio Durando, director of the diocesan Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants – has strengthened the invitation by Monsignor Nosiglia. The number of families, parish churches, religious congregations, associations and lay movements who offered reception is increasing.” In a letter to parish priests and rectors of churches the patriarch of Venice, Monsignor Francesco Moraglia, asked to coordinate “concrete interventions nationwide” at the level of the vicariate and of the growing parish cooperation networks. The bishop of Crema, Monsignor Oscar Cantoni, called upon the Christian community, “starting with the parishes, groups, movements and associations, in synergy with civil society”, to “organize themselves to address the refugee emergency.” “Eighty asylum-seekers are currently hosted in the district of Crema”, said Claudio Dagheti, vice-President of Caritas Crema. The bishop of Brescia, Monsignor Luciano Monari, said he hopes there will be widespread welcome whereby all parish communities available will ensure the inclusion of small groups of refugees. While waiting to know the availability of the single parishes, the archbishop of Taranto, Monsignor Filippo Santoro, announced that the Priestly Jesus Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites is available on a permanent basis for the first reception of migrants. The building is contiguous to the seminary of Poggio Galeso.Everyone’s commitment. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Campania, tabled an extraordinary meeting of the bishops of the Campania region for next Monday, September 14, for an overview of the initiatives already underway across dioceses and to identify further possible dignified housing solutions for the reception of migrants. The cardinal archbishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, Gualtiero Bassetti, welcomed and adhered to the Pope’s appeal: “Also families with unrented apartments should host the refugees.” Many more dioceses are involved in granting reception to migrants. These include the dioceses of Cagliari, Bergamo, Padua, Vicenza, Udine, Pompeii, Ischia, Teggiano-Policastro, Lamezia Terme, Reggio Calabria-Bova.

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