By Melissa Butz
On the morning of Dec. 4, at the request of Pope Francis, 33 asylum seekers flew into Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos, alongside Holy See representatives and those from the Sant‘Egidio lay community.
The refugees from Moria camp were warmly welcomed to Italy by members of the Vatican’s Office of Papal Charities at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
Later this month, another 10 asylum seekers will join them. They will be hosted by the Holy See as part of the Humanitarian Corridors project by Sant‘Egidio.
“Finally, after a complicated process, we are happy to welcome you to Italy,” Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant’Egidio, told them.
“This sign is calling us to finally wake up. There are 15,000 people who live in disastrous conditions and we are fine. Almoner means sharing myself with others – my favorite things and my personal space,” said Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, almoner of the Office of Papal Charities.
The initiative originally began with Pope Francis in April 2016, soon after he was elected pope. He traveled to the Moria camp in Lesbos and brought three Syrian families back on his plane with him. Soon after, nine more people followed.
As a continuation, in May 2019, the papal almoner and founder of Sant’Egidio traveled to Lesbos to visit the migrant reception facilities, at the request of the Holy Father.
“The pope holds Lesbos in his heart because he was there,”explained Andrea. “I went to talk to him after I visited Lesbos and he asked me, ‘Years after my visit, what happened?’ I told him the situation and he said, ‘Let’s give them at least one small sign of peace. Let them come here.’”
Cardinal Krajewski and Andrea went back this week to bring these 33 back to Italy.
There are Afghan families, a lady from Cameroon and one from Togo. All have lived in the camp for at least one or two years.
Now, drawing from the frontline of the migrant crisis, the Vatican and Sant’Egidio are giving them the opportunity to “restart life.”