The Pope’s ‘Robin Hood’, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, has worked a “miracle” for the migrant workers of Foggia, in Italy, after lobbying to get immigration papers for these long-marginalised people.
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Krajewski visited the ghettos of the Capitanata region last week for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
The cardinal saw first-hand how thousands of people barely survive in the slums without proper showers, shelter and sanitation, all the while toiling in the fields harvesting tomatoes and suffering the occasional racist attack.
The migrants, mostly from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Gambia, also suffer exploitation at the hands of local businesses, which pay them in black and refuse to acknowledge their rights as workers.
Krajewski – who once said he was prepared “to go to prison for what I do for the poor” – celebrated the agreement with the authorities, which will see the migrant workers registered under the addresses of local parishes.
At last they’ll be able to access public healthcare and other services.
“It’s a happy day, [because] those people weren’t treated as humans”, the cardinal said.
“In the European Union, even dogs have passports. A cow has a document, otherwise it could not be sold. And those are human beings who were refused documentation”.
“Now when they were recognized as human beings, they can be officially given showers, which we will build”, Krajewski added.
The cardinal explained that the push to regularise the migrant workers had come directly from Pope Francis.
“The Pope, after all, has his own authority, and the local government listened to the requests of the Holy Father”, Krajewski explained.
The cardinal added that Francis was pleased at the news his request to the Apulia authorities had been successful.
“He’s particularly happy that a monument of migrants and refugees was unveiled Sunday at the Vatican and, since then, stands at St. Peter’s Square”, Krajewski emphasised.
That statue in St. Peter’s, Angels Unaware, is a reminder of the “evangelical challenge of welcoming” migrants and refugees, as the Pope explained.
But it has attracted criticism for not being in sync with the famous architectural design of the centre of world Catholicism.
Krajewski dismissed the controversy, however, and said the Pope personally was thrilled with the result.
“This city is an eternal city, and let’s hope the monument will stay here eternally”. the cardinal said.
“It doesn’t matter whether it matches Bernini’s colonnade, it matches the Gospel”, he insisted.