Refugee crisis: responding with heart and mind

In his Angelus address on Sunday 6 September, Pope Francis said:
 
"Faced with the tragedy of thousands of refugees fleeing from death from war or hunger, heading for the hope of a life, the Gospel is calling us and asking us to be 'neighbours' to the littlest ones, the most abandoned ones. To give them real hope. Not just to say, 'Be strong, be patient!' Christian hope fights with the tenacity of someone aiming for a definite goal.
 
 "I am appealing to the parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines of the whole of Europe to show how real the Gospel is by welcoming a family of refugees.
 
"Every parish, every religious community, every monastery and every sanctuary in Europe ought to host a family."
 
Every diocese in England and Wales has responded to this urgent plea for help by appointing a named person to coordinate responses.
 
Preparation is difficult because we are not yet clear what we are being asked to do, or even what the Government will allow us to do. We assume the offer of help is limited to those fleeing violence in Syria although we hope that it is extended to all migrants, including those trapped in the misery of Calais.
 
Questions to ask while we wait:
 
•         How can a parish organise in preparation?

•         Where is there suitable property to offer accommodation?

•         Is anyone able to offer accommodation to a family?

•         Is anyone able to offer accommodation to an individual?

•         Who has time to offer in support of new arrivals?

•         Who can offer food and basic necessities?

•         Who can interpret the language of new arrivals?

•         Which other local groups are preparing in a similar way?

•         Who will be the link with the local council?

•         Does the parish need a team to coordinate responses?

•         How do we acknowledge and deal with worries and fears?
 
Archbishop Malcolm has asked Steve Atherton, the Justice and Peace fieldworker, to coordinate responses. Early next week he will start to gather a group to work out an organisational structure and offer support to volunteers in parishes.

He can be contacted via s.atherton@rcaol.co.uk or on 0151 522 1080 and 07740 007980.