Pope wants empty convents turned into refugee shelters
Sept. 11, 2013
“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, where he met with 250 volunteers who worked in four shelters run by the Jesuit Refugee Service.
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