Pope Francis offers shelter to migrants

Vatican to provide accommodation for two refugee families.

The Vatican will take two refugee families currently sheltering on the Italian island of Lampedusa at the express wishes of Pope Francis who has said that he wants to live near the new residents.

The announcement follows the pope's call at the Sunday Angelus at St Peter's Square on 6 September that all Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to take in refugees in need of shelter. Leading by example, the Vatican's two parishes – St Peter's and St Anne's – have opened their doors, with the final arrangements being put in place by the Archpriest of St Peter's Angelo Comastri, and the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski.

The pope's appeal is on the table for discussion in the coming days at the annual European bishops' conference in Jerusalem, according to the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.

Currently Italy has almost 120,000 migrants who were rescued at sea and who are hoping for asylum in Europe. Following the pontiff's appeal on 6 September, Cardinal Bagnasco said that if each of the more than 27,000 parishes across Italy hosted a family of four, it would provide shelter to more than 108,000 people.

Following his election in March 2013, the pope's first official trip outside Rome was to Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island off Sicily, where he met African migrants who had made the perilous 113-km crossing from Tunisia.

In September that year Pope Francis met asylum seekers at the Associazione Centro Astalli, a Jesuit-run refugee centre on Via degli Astalli near Piazza Venezia, where he said it was “not enough to limit ourselves to alms-giving; this must be accompanied by concrete actions to integrate immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.”

The pontiff has chosen mercy as the theme of the upcoming Holy Jubilee year. He has told Catholics that offering shelter to a refugee family would be seen as a “concrete act of preparation” for the jubilee, which begins on 8 December.

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