~ by Carol Glatz, Vatican News
VATICAN CITY: Safe, organized, legal and sustainable migration is in the interest of all countries, Pope Francis wrote.
“If this is not recognized, there is a risk that fear will erase people’s future and justify those barriers against which lives are shattered,” he said in a written address to refugees and to the volunteers and organizations who helped welcome and integrate them in Europe.
Speaking to the refugees and those who have helped them, the pope said, “Thank you for promoting this work of welcoming which is a concrete commitment to peace. Welcoming is the first step toward peace.”
The Vatican audience hall March 18 was filled with individuals and families from many countries at war or affected by severe humanitarian emergencies, such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Congo, Libya and Ukraine.
The pope only read a few passages from his prepared text, but spent about 25 minutes making his way, seated in a wheelchair, through the hall greeting guests and exchanging many hugs with enthusiastic children. One small boy insisted the pope accept his gift of a stuffed Spider-Man doll.
The migrants and refugees came to Italy and other European countries thanks to an initiative started in 2016 to create “humanitarian corridors” in which volunteers and organizations on the ground in areas of conflict identify people who are especially vulnerable and arrange for their safe and legal passage to communities prepared to take them in. They also help with housing, education and other forms of assistance.
The Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio established
Pope Francis greets a child during an audience with hundreds of refugees and displaced people and with those who have assisted them at the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall March 18, 2023. More than 6,000 people have come to Italy and other countries thanks to “humanitarian corridors” in which organizations arrange for the safe and legal passage of vulnerable people in areas of conflict. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
project together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches, the Waldensian church of Italy, the Italian branch of Caritas and the Italian bishops’ conference.
The project was started to help people avoid dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels, to prevent exploitation by human traffickers and to give priority to those in especially precarious conditions. More than 6,000 people have been offered legal passage and integration through the project since 2016.
In his spoken remarks, the pope thanked the organizations for their generosity and creativity and the commitment shown by governments for welcoming newcomers.