As he began his 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States, Pope Francis was seen off by a Syrian refugee family the Vatican is now housing through one of its parishes. The Pope described himself shortly after as “very moved."
“You could see the pain in their faces," Pope Francis told journalists aboard the flight with him en route to Havana, Cuba on Sept. 19. They bade him farewell as he left the Vatican through St. Anne’s gate.
He told journalists on the flight the word “peace" was on his mind during the quick greeting 40 minutes into the flight.
“I think that today the world is thirsting for peace," said Pope Francis. “There are wars, migrants who are fleeing, this wave of migration that comes from wars, fleeing death and seeking life.“
Just a day ago, the Vatican’s almsgiving office released basic information about two refugee families now being provided for by the two Vatican parishes.
One family – mother, father and two children – recently fled from the Syrian capital of Damascus. They are now living in a Vatican-owned apartment just outside the Vatican walls.
They cannot work in Italy for six months while their request for asylum is processed, so the Pontifical Parish of St. Anne is providing for their needs.
The alms office could not yet release any information on the second family being cared for by St. Peter’s Parish.
The Pope said it was the family being taken care of by St. Anne’s that met him on his way out.
During an address in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 6, Pope Francis asked all European parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines to house one refugee family. He pledged the Vatican’s two parishes would be doing the same.
The Vatican’s almsgiving office said the Syrian family arrived in Italy that very same Sunday. In the same statement, the office urged journalists not to seek out either family for comment to “protect" them as they seek official “refugee"status from international authorities.
Today, Pope Francis thanked journalists for being builders of “small bridges of peace…because each bridge, each little bridge, one after the other, makes a big bridge of peace."
By Alan Holdren