At Fiumicino Airport near Rome a group of refugees sponsored for admission into Italy by the Vatican were accompanied by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, on December 4th. He urged European bishops to “wake up” and take a stand on welcoming displaced persons fleeing persecution. Noting the pope’s great compassion for refugees and migrants, the cardinal told reporters their ongoing mistreatment was “a shame for Europe.” The 33 refugees, including 14 minors, arrived from Lesbos, Greece. Most were fleeing war-torn Afghanistan.
Assisting in their journey has been the Catholic Sant’Egidio community, which since February 2016 has been able to bring 3,026 refugees into Europe using demilitarized zones known as humanitarian corridors.
Many of the refugees welcomed in Rome came from Moria, a camp that has become infamous because of its poor conditions. The refugee camps in Lesbos are operating far in excess of their capacity, with numbers doubling in just a few months as political and social unrest shakes Africa and the Middle East.
Maryam Moradi, originally from Iran, called life in Moria “the worst experience my family ever had.” Ms. Moradi said she was grateful for Pope Francis’ intercession and appealed to global leadership to “help each other, to be friends and to stop war and fights,” insisting that refugees “just want a normal life.”
For Mustafa Ahmadi, just shy of 17 years old, it has been “a long and dangerous journey” that brought him from Afghanistan to Iran to Turkey to Lesbos. He said the pain and desolation he has witnessed have “really hurt” him and described the intervention of the Vatican and Sant’Egidio as “a kind of miracle—a dream, really.”