What could possibly go wrong? Last February, the Islamic State promised to flood Europe in the near future with as many as 500,000 refugees. And an Islamic State operative recently boasted that among the flood of refugees, 4,000 Islamic State jihadis had entered Europe. “They are going like refugees,” he said, but they were going with the plan of sowing blood and mayhem on European streets. As he told this to journalists, he smiled and said, “Just wait.” He explained: “It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only in Syria but in all the world, and we will have it soon, inshallah.”
Is societal suicide really a requirement of Christian charity? So many Christian clerics seem to think so — either in regard to this refugee influx or in regard to accepting Islamic blasphemy restrictions on the freedom of speech — that apparently I am a misunderstander of Christianity.
“Pope: ‘I trust the young politicians. Corruption is a global problem,'” by Aura Miguel, Renascença, September 14, 2015
But this challenge to welcome these refugees who are making their way into Europe, in your point of view, could it be positive for Europe? Could it be beneficial, a provocation? Is Europe finally waking up, changing track?
It may be. It’s true, I recognize that, nowadays, border safety conditions are not what they once were. The truth is that just 400 kilometres from Sicily there is an incredibly cruel terrorist group. So there is a danger of infiltration, this is true.
Which could reach Rome…
Yes, nobody said Rome would be immune to this threat. But you can take precautions, and put these people to work. But then there is another problem, that Europe is going through a very big labour crisis. There is a country… In fact, I am going to mention three countries, although I will not name them, but some of the most important in Europe, in which unemployment for under 25 year olds is, in one country 40%, in another 47% and in a third 50%. There is a labour crisis, young people can’t find work. So it is a mixture of things and we can’t be simplistic. Obviously, if a refugee arrives, despite all the safety precautions, we must welcome him, because this is a commandment from the Bible. Moses said to his people: “welcome the foreigner, because you also were a foreigner in the land of Egypt”.
But the ideal would be that they didn’t need to flee, that they could remain in their lands?
That’s right, Yes.
Your Holiness, during the Sunday Angelus you made this very concrete challenge to welcome refugees. Have there been reactions? What do you expect, exactly?
What I asked was that in each parish and each religious institute, every monastery, should take in one family. A family, not just one person. A family gives more guarantees of security and containment, so as to avoid infiltrations of another kind. When I say that a parish should welcome a family, I don’t mean that they should go and live in the priest’s house, in the rectory, but that each parish community should see if there is a place, a corner in the school which can be turned into a small apartment or, if necessary, that they may rent a small apartment for this family; but that they should be provided with a roof, welcomed and integrated into the community. I have had many, many reactions. There are convents which are almost empty…
Two years ago you had already made this request, what answers did you get?
Only four. One of them from the Jesuits [laughs]; well done, the Jesuits! But this is a serious subject, because there is also the temptation of the god money. Some religious orders say “no, now that the convent is empty we are going to make a hotel and we can have guests, and support ourselves that way, or make money”. Well, if that is what you want to do, then pay taxes! A religious school is tax-exempt because it is religious, but if it is functioning as a hotel, then it should pay taxes just like its neighbour. Otherwise it is not fair business.
And you have already said that you will be taking in two families, here in the Vatican…
Yes, two families. I was told yesterday that the families have already been identified, and the two Vatican parishes have undertaken to go and search for them.
They have been identified?
Yes, yes, yes, they have. Cardinal Comastri dealt with that – he is my vicar-general for the Vatican – along with Monsenhor Konrad Krajewski, who is the Apostolic Almoner, and who works with the homeless and was in charge of installing the showers underneath the colonnade, and the barbers – truly marvellous. He is the one who takes the homeless to see the museums and the Sistine Chapel…
And how long will these families be staying?
As long as the Lord wants. We don’t know how this will end, do we? Nonetheless, I want to say that Europe has opened its eyes, and I thank it. I thank the European countries which have become opened their eyes to this.