Checking in: Pope invites Syrian refugees to lunch

By Cindy Wooden

a luncheon that was part reunion and part progress report, Pope Francis invited
21 Syrian refugees to join him at the Vatican Aug. 11.

The pope’s lunch guests
included the 12 refugees — three married couples and six children — Pope
Francis brought back to Rome with him from Lesbos, Greece, in April and another
nine Syrian refugees who arrived in Rome in mid-June with Vatican assistance.

While the Vatican is
covering the living costs of the 21 refugees, they are being housed and
resettled by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay community based in Rome. The
community runs a large Italian language school for refugees, which the Syrians
are attending.

Greg Burke, Vatican
spokesman, said both the adults and the children had a chance to talk to Pope
Francis about beginning their new lives in Italy. “The children gave the
Holy Father a collection of their drawings, and the pope reciprocated with toys
and other gifts.”

Joining Pope Francis and
the refugees for the lunch in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives,
were: Archbishop Angelo Becciu, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of
State; Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, and other
community members; Domenico Gianni and two other members of the Vatican police
force, who assisted in getting the families from Lesbos to Italy.

Members of the Sant’Egidio
Community helped the Vatican interview refugees in Greece and choose families
that both the Greek and Italian governments would provide with the necessary
travel papers in time for the papal flight. Of the 21 refugees, one married
couple is Christian, the others are Muslim.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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