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Pope takes in refugee families and urges parishes to do same

By Gavin Cordon

Published 07/09/2015

A Syrian child fleeing the war is lifted over border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale
A Syrian child fleeing the war is lifted over border fences to enter Turkish territory illegally, near the Turkish border crossing at Akcakale

The Vatican will shelter two families of refugees who are "fleeing death" from war or hunger, Pope Francis announced as he called on Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to do the same.

Francis cited Mother Teresa, the European-born nun who cared for the poorest in India, in making his appeal in remarks to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter's Square.

"Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbours to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope," Francis said.

It's not enough to say "Have courage, hang in there," he added.

"May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family, starting with my diocese of Rome," Francis said. He also asked bishops throughout Europe to have their dioceses take up his call to "express the Gospel in concrete terms and take in a family of refugees".

Francis said two of the Vatican's parishes will welcome two refugee families, but did not give details.

Yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne said Britain's international aid budget would be used to help cover the costs of taking "thousands more" refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria.

Mr Osborne said funds would be channelled to local councils to pay for housing and other services as part of a "fundamental re-think" of the UK's £12bn-a-year foreign aid spending.

He said ministers would also begin setting out the arguments for extending RAF air strikes against Islamic State (IS) into Syria as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the root cause of the refugee crisis.

The announcement came as David Cameron prepared to set out details of his plan for a major expansion of the Government's programme to resettle vulnerable refugees from the camps in the countries bordering Syria.

Mr Osborne said it was right that aid spending was used in support of Britain's national interest and he signalled a major shift in resources to the Middle East to promote stability in the region.

Mr Osborne refused to be drawn on how many additional refugees would be admitted but said an assessment would made as to what the country's infrastructure and public services could support.

He acknowledged the decision to increase the numbers - after Mr Cameron had previously argued it was not the solution to the refugee crisis - was in part driven by the pictures of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach.

"I think the photograph crystallised a growing sense in Britain that this was a crisis where Britain had to do more," he said.

Elsewhere, police stood by as thousands of migrants hopped on cross-border trains into Austria, taking advantage of Hungary's surprise decision to stop screening international train travellers for travel visas.

Fourteen trains from Hungary's capital Budapest arrived at the Hegyeshalom station near the Austrian border, disgorging migrants on to the platform.

Police did not check documents as passengers, mostly migrants, walked a few yards to waiting Austria-bound trains.

Austrian police said more than 13,000 migrants have passed through their country to Germany over the past two days - far more than had been expected.

Belfast Telegraph

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