Anthony Faiola and Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post
Posted: Monday, September 7, 2015, 1:06 AM
MUNICH – Issuing a broad appeal to Europe’s Catholics, Pope Francis on Sunday called on “every” parish, religious community, monastery, and sanctuary to take in one refugee family – an appeal that, if honored, would offer shelter to tens of thousands.
Francis delivered his call as thousands of refugees detained for days in Hungary continued streaming into Germany and Austria, and as a small but rising number of volunteers are offering to take some in.
The Vatican itself will shelter at least two families of refugees who are “fleeing death” from war or hunger, the pope announced Sunday as he urged others to do the same.
Even as the pope was greeted with a rousing round of applause following his appeal in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, some Germans were asking how far their country could go in receiving more refugees.
The pope, who has already thrust himself into polarizing debates over climate change and free market economics, has now entered the fray again, this time over how Europe should handle its largest wave of refugees since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The majority of those coming are Muslims from Syria, Iraq, and other nations, and Francis weighed in just as anti-migrant politicians, including senior European leaders, are wielding religion as a weapon.
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, where Roman Catholicism is the largest religion, just last week proclaimed Europe’s “Christian identity” under threat because “those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture.”
Francis, a leader already known for mending the sometimes wobbly bridges between Catholicism and other faiths, delivered a direct challenge to such thinking.
“Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees – fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life – the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken, to give them a concrete hope,” he said. “And not just to tell them: ‘Have courage, be patient!’ ”
At Munich’s sprawling train station on Sunday, German officials and well-wishers greeted arriving refugees as they disembarked from westbound trains looking haggard and clutching their meager belongings. One disabled boy without a wheelchair was carried through the station by a volunteer and taken to an emergency first aid station for treatment. Those arriving – most of …Read More