Pope Francis: “Empty convents are of no use to the Church. Let the refugees in.”

From Vatican Insider:

“Empty convents are not for the Church to transform into hotels and make money from them. Empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ: refugees,” the Pope said lifting his eyes from his script during his visit to Centro Astalli, a refugee centre in the heart of Rome, which offers shelter, food and assistance to undocumented migrants. The centre has been assisting refugees who come to Italy fleeing wars, violence and torture for over thirty years.

This visit was important for Francis as it sort of follows on from his trip to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa: it is traditional for the Bishop of Rome to show special attention to the poor and persecuted. Francis arrived at the refugee centre at 15:25, in a blue Ford Focus, with no escorts and no secretary. He greeted many refugees outside Centro Astalli as they waited for their meals. He then approached those who were already in the refectory eating and stopped to talk to a group of about 20 refugees. He listened to some heartbreaking stories. One of the people he spoke to was Carol, from Syria. After listening to her story, the Pope picked up on what she had said and affirmed that integration was indeed “a right”.

After a brief moment of prayer in the Centro Astalli chapel and after greeting all the members of staff – Francis was even offered some mate – the Pope moved on to the nearby Church of the Gesù , where he met with 250 volunteers who worked in four shelters run by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

“What does it mean to serve? Service means welcoming a person who arrives and showing them attention; it means stretching a helping hand out to those who need it, without hesitations, without fear, but showing tenderness and understanding, just as Jesus bent down to wash the feet of the apostles.”

“Serving means working alongside the needy, establishing human relationships and close ties of solidarity with them,” the Pope said. Solidarity “is a word that scares the developed world.” People try not to use it. It’s as if it were a swear word to them. But it is our Word! Serving means recognising and embracing justice and hope and looking for concrete roads and paths to freedom.”

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