Pope Francis issued a plea on Sunday that appeals to Catholics in Europe, and those of other faiths, to take into their bosom a family of refugees. As more make the hazardous journey to flee conflict and oppression, from Syria, Afghanistan and African countries, the Pope said that more must be willing to take them in.
“May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” the Pope said at his Angelus prayers in Rome. “The two parishes in the Vatican these days will welcome two families of refugees.”
Some 215,000 migrants have made their way to Europe from the Middle East and Africa in 2015 alone. Many who tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea have not made it to shore, with more than 2,600 known to have died trying. Most of the dead were heading for Italy and had to go through the central area of the Mediterranean, a more storm-ravaged route.
Last Wednesday a boat full of Syrian refugees sank off the Greek island of Kos and bodies washed up on the shore of the Turkish town of Bodrum, among them 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi. A photo of the dead boy lying in the water and another of a Turkish police officer carrying his lifeless body have galvanized people around the world to the plight of the refugees.
The photographer who took those photos, Nilufer Demir, told Vice Media they were excruciatingly difficult photographs to take. “On the one hand, I wish I hadn’t had to take that picture,” she told Vice. “I would have much preferred to have taken one of Aylan playing on the beach than photographing his corpse. What I saw has left a terrible impression that keeps me awake at night.
“Then again, I am happy that the word finally cares and is mourning the dead children,” she added. “I hope that my picture can contribute to changing the way we look at immigration in Europe, and that no more people have to die on their way out of a war.”
Pope Francis agrees with Ms. Demir and has called on his church to help refugees gain a safe haven.