The papal almoner has called for churches to take in refugees on Lesbos to force the closure of the “shameful” camps on the Greek island.

Driving the news

“Let’s start with the cardinals, the bishops, the priests: let’s open our homes, our canonries, our palaces. There is space, there are resources”, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski urged in a press conference Wednesday at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

“If every monastery, every religious house, every parish, was opened for at least one person, for at least one family, there would be nobody left on Lesbos”.

The cardinal was speaking after the arrival in Italy of 33 young refugees and families from Afghanistan, Cameroon and Togo via the humanitarian corridors to Europe of the Sant’Egidio Community and on the express desire of Pope Francis.

“The Pope is the one who builds bridges”, Krajewski explained.

“Today we build this bridge which is called the humanitarian corridor. It is something totally Evangelical.

“God does great works. But with all the people of good will, we can multiply these corridors and this will be our miracle”, the cardinal said.

Go deeper

The arrival in Italy today of the 33 refugees – who will be joined by the end of the month by 10 more asylum seekers – is the culmination of intense official negotiations between the Vatican, Sant’Egidio, and the Italian and Greek Governments, which last paid the refugees’ airplane fares.

The Pope’s care for the refugees on Lesbos, however, goes back at least to his April 2016 trip to the Moria camp on the island, after which he brought back with him to Italy three families of Syrian asylum seekers.

In May this year, too, the Pope sent cardinals Krajewski and Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg to Lesbos to transmit his solidarity with the people there.

In mid-November, Hollerich then welcomed in Luxembourg two more families of refugees from the Greek island.

Why it matters

Reflecting on the plight of the migrants stuck on Lesbos, Krajewski admitted today that he had witnessed “terrible situations” in the camps on the island.

“There were 7,000 people in May. Today there are over 15,000, with 800 unaccompanied children”, the cardinal deplored.

“There is no hope for them stuck in Greece today. They are living in dramatic conditions. It is a problem for Europe and shameful”.

“Advent is a time that says, ‘wake up!’, Krajewski continued.

“This first corridor that takes place in Europe, says to all of us: ‘wake up!’

“The new cardinal archbishop of Luxembourg gave us the example that two weeks ago he personally took charge of two families and welcomed them into his home and now they live together. We must begin with ourselves”, the cardinal insisted.

That call to ‘wake up!’ is precisely the plea Sant’Egidio founder Andrea Riccardi directed to the countries of Europe, so as to alleviate the conditions of “extreme difficulty” and “wounded humanity” found on the forgotten island of Lesbos.

“The humanitarian corridors are the beginning of a process that we want to be shared by all European countries”, Riccardi said.

Next on Novena:

Sant’Egidio calls on new EU Commission head to open humanitarian corridors for refugees

Italian Church group welcomes 40 Syrian refugees to Rome


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.