Vatican officials arrive in Jordan as refugee crisis continues

Amman, Jordan, Feb 19, 2013 / 09:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, is visiting Jordan to take stock of the serious refugee situation created by the Syrian conflict and to assess how Catholic charities are responding.

“The humanitarian situation in Syria, and throughout the region is unsustainable. Some estimates speak of a million refugees, more than two and a half million displaced persons, and almost one hundred thousand deaths directly attributable to violence,” a Feb. 18 press release from Cor Unum says.

Cardinal Sarah is being joined on his Feb. 19-21 trip by Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, who is the secretary of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. The pair will take part in the regional conference of Caritas in the Middle East, North Africa, and Horn of Africa, which is taking place in Jordan.

The pontifical council is responsible for overseeing the international Catholic relief agency Caritas, distributing funds to disaster victims and coordinating Catholic charitable efforts.

The meeting will provide an opportunity to assess humanitarian aid provided by Catholic charities, including Caritas, to refugees and victims of the violence in Syria.

The scale of the refugee crisis is vast. Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey have all received people trying to escape the fighting between government troops and opposition forces. The U.N. estimates that 5,000 people are leaving Syria every day, although other reports indicate the actual number could be significantly higher.

As of Feb. 18, the number of refugees in Jordan had reached 355,000. On Monday, the Jordanian border guard forces reported that 1,279 people had crossed into the country in the last 24 hours alone.

The stream of refugees pouring into Jordan “has exceeded all expectations as the number of Syrians crossing the border between the two countries during the first week of the new year has come to 8,835 refugees, whereas, the number in December was 22,000,” a Jan. 12 situation report from Caritas Jordan said.

In its Feb. 18 statement Cor Unum also noted that the “harsh winter is further contributing to this sad situation of suffering of an exhausted people, especially the weakest and most vulnerable on the fringes of society.”

During their trip Cardinal Sarah and Msgr. Del Toso will visit some of the places where refugees are being housed. They will also meet with King Abdullah of Jordan.

About CNA Daily News