Pope Francis called on Catholic institutions throughout Europe to show mercy to the floods of refugees arriving in the continent and offer them shelter. The Vatican will lead by example, he said, by welcoming two refugee families. “May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family, starting with my diocese of Rome,” Francis said, according to the Associated Press.
Speaking to tourists and the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff said Catholics must take concrete action to help mitigate the crisis. “Before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope, the gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned,” Francis said, according to Vatican Radio. He also specifically called on bishops throughout Europe for their dioceses to take up his call and “express the Gospel in concrete terms and take in a family of refugees.”
If the pope’s appeal is honored it would translate into shelter for hundreds of thousands. There are more than 12,000 parishes in Germany and 25,000 in Italy, notes Reuters. Overall there are around 122,000 Catholic parishes in Europe, so if each housed a single family of three to four people, “about 360,000 to 500,000 refugees could be accommodated in the coming months,” according to the Washington Post.