Franciscan convent to shelter refugees

| Carol Glatz | April 12, 2016 | 0 Comments
Cecile Kyenge, Italian minister for integration, serves food in the kitchen of the Astalli Center of the Jesuit Refugee Service in 2013 in Rome. Just months after his election that year, Pope Francis had said church buildings that no longer house nuns, friars, monks and other religious should be used to shelter refugees. CNS photo/Alessandro Di Meo, EPA

Cecile Kyenge, Italian minister for integration, serves food in the kitchen of the Astalli Center of the Jesuit Refugee Service in 2013 in Rome. Just months after his election that year, Pope Francis had said church buildings that no longer house nuns, friars, monks and other religious should be used to shelter refugees. CNS photo/Alessandro Di Meo, EPA

A medieval Franciscan convent near Assisi, Italy, opened its doors once again to offer refugees shelter and assistance.

With the support of the Order of Friars Minor in Umbria, the local arm of Caritas will provide educational, cultural and language assistance to 13 men from Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria.

The Franciscans in Assisi have been working to make their lodging and residential properties — mostly convents — throughout Umbria available for such efforts, they said in a press release April 5.

“Welcoming refugees represents a work of mercy — called for also by the appeals of Pope Francis and the entire provincial fraternity,” the Franciscan order said.

The refugees planned to move into the 15th-century Convent of “Santissima Annunziata” in the hills northeast of Assisi April 6 and live there for at least one year. The refugees, together with Caritas workers and the two Franciscans who live at the convent, will help with the convent’s upkeep and preparing meals.

The same convent had been the temporary home for 16 Muslim and two Catholic refugees for almost two years between 2011 and 2013. That initiative also involved the collaboration of the Franciscan province and the diocesan Caritas.

Just months after his 2013 election, Pope Francis had said Church buildings that no longer house nuns, friars, monks and other religious should be used to shelter refugees.

“Empty convents and monasteries should not be turned into hotels by the Church to earn money,” he said when visiting the Jesuit Astalli Center for refugees in Rome in September 2013. The buildings “are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ, which is what the refugees are,” he had said.

Two years later, the pope called on every parish, religious community and sanctuary in Europe to take in one refugee family to help respond to the massive influx of people coming especially from war-torn Syria.

The Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Anne’s parish helped sponsor two refugee families, offering them housing and assistance.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 1 million migrants arrived at Europe’s borders in 2015.

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