A slum for migrants in Foggia, Italy

“Gospel” trumps red tape for marginalised Italian migrant workers

As the Pope’s “Robin Hood”, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski has handed out blankets to those sleeping rough on Rome’s streets, funded soup kitchens, showers and medical clinics for the homeless and personally restored power to a building occupied by squatters.

But on Monday he worked a different “miracle” for the refugees of the Italian region of Foggia, signing a deal with a local mayor to get papers for thousands of migrants who were falling through the cracks in the system.

Driving the news

“The pope told me… he cares about that deal dearly”, Krajewski told Crux after inking the deal with San Severo mayor Francesco Miglio.

“What we achieved today is a milestone for migrants and refugees”, the cardinal added.

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Go deeper

Simply put, Krajewski’s deal with local authorities, in the Apulia region on the heel of Italy’s boot, allows local Bishop Giovanni Checchinato to permit parishes to register the migrants and refugees living under their care.

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“Technically the bishop, through the parish pastors, is giving them the address [necessary to register] – which is the street of Guardian Angel, that’s what we agreed on – and with that confirmation they go to the city hall, get the paperwork and are free to live a normal life”, the cardinal explained to Crux.

Those papers for migrants are something the local Church has been wanting for over twenty years, Krajewski added.

With the pope’s intervention, however, the agreement for residency permits came through in just a few days.

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Why it matters

Thousands of people barely survive in the slums in Foggia without proper showers, shelter and sanitation, “working black” for a pittance in the fields just to earn a living.

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Their “irregular” situation makes it hard for them to get a legal job, proper housing or to receive decent medical attention.

“We restored the human dignity of those people. This is what they were refused”, Krajewski said.

“I told the mayor of the city this is what the courage of the Gospel is about”, the cardinal added.

“We usually want to help the poor in the way we think is good for them. But they don’t need musical concerts. They need to take a shower. They need to have a bank account”.

Krajewski said the San Severo authorities were inspired by the Papal Almonry’s recent opening of laundry services and showers for the poor in the city of Genoa.

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“The good news is really spreading quickly and let’s hope others will follow”, the cardinal said, adding that the pope’s idea with these gestures is to build “a bridge between the invisibles and those we can see”.

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