Pope calls on Europeans to give shelter to refugees

Pope calls on Europeans to give shelter to refugees
The Vatican will shelter two families of refugees Pope Francis said Sunday and called on Catholic parishes across Europe to do the same, as thousands continue to stream into Germany.
7 min read
06 September, 2015

The Vatican will shelter two families of refugees who are "fleeing death" from war or hunger, Pope Francis announced Sunday as he called on Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to do the same.  

Francis cited Mother Teresa, the European-born nun who cared for the poorest in India, in making his appeal in

remarks to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square.  

"Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeting death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbours to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope," Frances said.    

It's not enough to say "Have courage, hang in there," he added.   

"May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family, starting with my diocese of Rome," Francis said.

He also asked bishops throughout Europe to have their dioceses take up his call to "express the Gospel in concrete terms and take in a family of refugees."  

     It's not enough to say 'Have courage, hang in there'. Pope Francis

The Vatican is a tiny city-state and some of its citizens, including families with children, live in apartments inside its ancient walls. It has two parish churches, including St. Peter's Basilica. 

Francis said two of the Vatican's parishes will welcome two refugee families, but did not give details. A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, quoted the pope's chief alms-giver as saying the Vatican is now deciding which families will be hosted.  

Thousands arrive in Germany

The Pope's comments came as thousands of migrants and refugees streamed into Germany and Austria  after being stuck in Hungary for days.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel is in talks with her coalition partners on Sunday, as Syrians, Iraqis and others fleeing war and persecution streamed into Germany for the second day.  

The Christian Social Union, the socially-conservative wing of Merkel's center-right bloc, has criticised the decision to open Germany's borders to migrants and refugees stuck in Hungary, the dpa news agency reported.   

Meanwhile, the center-left Social Democrats, the third member of Merkel's three-party coalition, urged swift humanitarian help for those trekking through Europe. 

"No decent person can remain cold and dismissive in the face of such suffering," said Thomas Oppermann, a senior Social Democrat.   

He added that refugees should be fairly distributed in Europe, and countries should not avoid their responsibilities. "Whoever refuses to do their part calls into question whether they can be part of Europe."   

German officials have been particularly angry at Hungary for encouraging migrants to keep traveling westward, instead of providing them with adequate shelter and the chance to apply for asylum there.  

Thousands arrived in Germany by way of Austria by train, bus and car on Saturday. Most went to Munich, the

     At each stop the refugees were received with cheers, bags of food and toys for the children.

Bavarian capital, where authorities said some 7,000 people were registered and over half received a bed for the night.  

Special trains also took 570 people to the Thuringian town of Saalfeld. More than half of them were taken onward to Dresden, where a school for German army officers has been cleared to provide temporary shelter for 350 newcomers. 

Other trains brought refugees to Hamburg in the north and Dortmund in the west of the country, while more than 300 people traveled to the capital Berlin on specially chartered buses. 

At each stop the refugees were received with cheers, bags of food and toys for the children.  

Most Germans have been welcoming of the refugees. But far-right groups have protested their arrival, including in Dortmund overnight.   

Chancellor Merkel has warned that extremist groups might try to take advantage to stoke people's prejudices against refugees.

The US 'to blame'

Authorities estimate that up to 800,000 people could apply for asylum in Germany by the end of the year.  

Germany's opposition Left Party, meanwhile, said the United States was to blame for the migrant crisis originating in the Middle East because it had indirectly supported terrorist groups in the region.  

"If the German government had a little bit of courage it would at least ask the United States, as the main cause of the refugee tragedy, to pay some of the costs," dpa quoted Sahra Wagenknecht, a senior Left Party lawmaker, as saying.     

Thousands more people, mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war and persecution, are expected to arrive in Germany and Austria from Hungary on Sunday.  

The refugees were allowed to leave Hungary Saturday after the country opened its borders with Austria.  

Left to walk the final stretch into Austria, rain-soaked refugees were taken by train and shuttle bus first to Vienna and then by train to Munich and other cities in Germany. 

The last train carrying an estimated 1,000 refugees pulled into Munich from Austria at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday (2330 GMT), bringing the total to have arrived in the Bavarian capital since Saturday to about 8,000.

     They seemed dazed by the calls of 'welcome to Munich'.

Police immediately ushered the arrivals onto another train bound for Dortmund on the opposite platform, cordoned off from onlookers in the main station terminal. 

Some who wanted to stay in Munich initially refused to get on the second train, which eventually set off with all the passengers about an hour later.

'Refugees welcome'

Most of those who arrived on Saturday were bussed to reception centers in and around the Munich after being medically screened, fed and offered fresh clothing.

They seemed dazed by the calls of "welcome to Munich," from the few dozen well-wishers remaining at around midnight, as well as by their determination to thrust chocolate bars, bananas or bread rolls into their hands.

A similar total is expected to arrive in Munich later on Sunday.

Munich police said Arabic-speaking interpreters were helping refugees with procedures at the emergency registration centers. The seemingly efficient Austrian and German reception contrasted with the disorder prevalent in Hungary.

"It was just such a horrible situation in Hungary," said Omar, arriving in Vienna with his family.

German Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns said Berlin's decision to open its borders to Syrians was an exceptional case for humanitarian reasons. He said Europe's so-called Dublin rules, which require people to apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter, had not been suspended.

"The Dublin rules are still valid and we expect other European Union member states to stick to them," he said.

After days of confrontation and chaos, Hungary deployed more than 100 buses overnight to take thousands of the migrants who had streamed there from southeast Europe to the Austrian frontier. Austria said it had agreed with Germany to allow the migrants access, waiving the asylum rules.

Wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags, long lines of weary people, many carrying small, sleeping children, got off buses on the Hungarian side of the border and walked through the rain into Austria, receiving fruit and water from aid workers. Waiting Austrians held signs that read "Refugees welcome".

"We're happy. We'll go to Germany," said a Syrian man who gave his name as Mohammed.

Austria said 9,000 people had crossed from Hungary on Saturday. The Austrian state railway company OeBB estimated it would have transported 7,500 migrants before stopping services for the night, with the last train from the border due to arrive in Vienna at 2100 GMT.

At the frontier with Hungary, Austrian police said the flow of people had slowed, with some still crossing on foot. 

Hungary insisted the bus rides were a one-off as hundreds more people gathered in Budapest, in what has become Europe's most acute refugee crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Hungary's U-turn 

Hungary, the main entry point into Europe's borderless

     Hundreds set off for the Austrian border on foot, chanting Germany, Germany!

Schengen zone for migrants, has taken a hard line, vowing to seal its southern frontier with a new, high fence by Sept. 15.

Hungarian officials have portrayed the crisis as a defence of Europe's prosperity, identity and "Christian values" against an influx of mainly Muslim refugees.

In particular, Hungary has lashed out at Germany, which expects to receive 800,000 refugees and migrants this year, for declaring it would accept Syrians' requests regardless of where they entered the EU. 

For days this week, several thousand people camped outside Budapest's main railway station as trains to western Europe were canceled, the government insisting that anyone entering Hungary must apply for asylum there as EU rules stipulated.

But the logjam broke on  Friday when refugees broke out of a camp on Hungary's frontier with Serbia and others escaped a stranded train. Hundreds set off for the Austrian border on foot, chanting "Germany, Germany!"