Taking up the appeal of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for Parishes, religious communities and monasteries across Europe to host those fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and North Africa, I have put in place today a team comprising of representatives of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Diocesan Curia, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul and Trócaire to assess available space and other resources in the Diocese that could be made available to support a compassionate Christian and humanitarian response to the current crisis.
This team will liaise with me and with the priests, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese. This team will also endeavour to explore with fellow Christians in other denominations and leaders of other faiths, as well as with relevant Departments of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the most effective response and contribution that the Diocese, its parishes and organisations can make in response to the decision today by the Westminster government to extend the outreach being offered to the thousands of families in urgent need of welcome and refuge. Alongside the more immediate needs of food and clothing, this will include assessing the capacity to accommodate refugees within parishes and the Diocese as part of a first stage response to longer-term settlement and integration, which are integral parts of a cohesive and enduring Government response to the current crisis.
In my Pastoral Letter at the beginning of this year reflecting on the World Day of Peace Message from Pope Francis entitled, ‘No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters’, I spoke of the importance of mobilising Christian solidarity as a means of giving new hope to those who are oppressed and enslaved. I also acknowledged that ‘giving shape on the ground to this solidarity is the job of each Christian through membership of Christ’s body, the living Church’. My hope is that this initiative by the Diocese will assist our local Church in playing its part in offering practical solidarity with those in need, mirroring the tender mercy and compassion of Christ himself for those who, like his own human family once did, face the fear, upheaval and uncertainty of fleeing violence and persecution.
The ground-swell of compassion across Ireland and Britain manifests a civic and public sense of responsibility for those in need. This deserves to be met by increased determination on the part of national governments and the international community to address the underlying causes of the conflict in the regions giving rise to the current refugee crisis. We pray that courage and generosity will prevail at the meeting of EU ministers of the interior on Monday next week, September 14th, and for new initiatives by the international community to bring peace and stability to the peoples and countries involved.
- Bishop Noel Treanor is Bishop of Down and Connor
Fr Eddie McGee
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