Pope Francis met asylum seekers at the Associazione Centro Astalli, a Jesuit-run refugee centre on Via degli Astalli near Piazza Venezia, on 10 September.
During the visit he said that empty church buildings should be used to house refugees, who must be embraced rather than feared.
"Empty convents and monasteries should not be turned into hotels by the Church to earn money ... (the buildings) are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, which is what the refugees are," he said.
Speaking to the asylum seekers, the majority of whom were African, the pope said: "Many of you are Muslims, from other religions; you have come from different countries, from different situations. We must not be afraid of differences."
The pope said it was not enough to limit ourselves to “a form of alms-giving, to give everyone a panino; this must be accompanied by concrete actions to integrate immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees."
During the visit, which lasted over an hour, the pope visited the centre's canteen and spoke personally to numerous asylum seekers among the 500-strong crowd, including Carol from Syria and Adam from Darfur.
Towards the end of the pope's visit, the refugees chanted his name in Italian and Spanish, before he was driven back across the Tiber in his unescorted blue Ford Focus.
The role of the Associazione Centro Astalli, which has five locations in Italy, is to help refugees integrate into the Italian workplace and society. Last year the centre assisted 34,300 people – 21,000 in Rome – according to its website.
Since his election in March, Pope Francis has put the poor and the plight of immigrants at the heart of his papacy. Significantly, his first official trip outside Rome in July was to Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island off Sicily, where he met African migrants who had made the perilous 113-km crossing from Tunisia.
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Pope Francis visits Rome refugee centre
Associazione Centro Astalli, Via degli Astalli 14, tel. 0669700306
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