Pope Francis called upon every Catholic parish in Europe to take in at least one family of the thousands of immigrants who are crossing into European Union territory. It was after after praying the Angelus and addressing the throngs in St Peter's Square on September 6 that the pontiff said "I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe to ... take in one family of refugees." He said that immigrants are "fleeing death."
At least 7,000 people crossed into Germany on September 5 and received a bed for the night in Germany. Thousands more are on their way from Hungary after Austria opened its gates to the most Muslim immigrants. Thousands are fleeing the violence in the Mideast, especially Syria, which has been riven by the conflict between the Syrian government and Muslim terrorists. German authorities are expecting 800,000 applications for asylum by the end of the year. EU President Donald Tusk said last week that the EU can expect at least 500,000 irregular immigrants by the end of 2015.
European cohesion is being buffeted by immigration crisis. At issue is the Schengen treaty, which allows for passport-free travel within 28 countries. The fragile economic recovery in Europe (e.g. Spain is 23%) that has been coupled with increased immigration has diminished support in the EU for the Schengen Agreement. The agreement will probably be reformed, say observers, while friction between the signatories of the agreement and other countries will heighten tensions.
A senior member of Germany's opposition Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, claimed that the United States is responsible for the circumstances driving immigrants from the Middle East because it had indirectly supported terrorist groups fighting to bring down Syria's President Bashr Assad. "If the German government had a little bit of courage it would at least ask the United States, as the main cause of the refugee tragedy, to pay some of the costs," said Wagenknecht, according to Germany's dpa news service. The Christian Social Union, the socially conservative member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, is critical of the open-door policy.
Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipila — a millionaire — said on September 5 that he would take in an immigrant family into his home. Hungarian premier Viktor Orban said on September 3 that the onslaught of mostly Muslim immigrants threatens the Christian identify of Europe. Hungary placed immigrants in camps from which many escaped and then headed for Austria for their eventual acceptance in wealthy Germany.
In Italy there are more than 25,000 parishes in Italy alone, and more than 12,000 in Germany, where immigrants are seeking deliverance from endemic poverty and political and sectarian violence. “This is not a European problem, it’s a German problem,” pronounced Orbán in Brussels. “They all want to go to Germany.”
Said Pope Francis, who is the grandson of Italians who emigrated to Argentina, to the applause of the crowds: "Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family."
The Vatican City itself has two parishes, which will accept one family of refugees each. Pope Francis set an early example in his pontificate when he made his first trip as pontiff to Lampedusa: an Italian island in the Mediterranean halfway between Tunisia and Sicily where immigrants arrive in precarious boats from Africa. On September 5, units of Italy's coast guard rescued 329 immigrants nearby who issued distress calls from their rubber boats.
Pope Francis said taking in immigrant families is a "concrete gesture" to prepare for the extraordinary Holy Year on the theme of mercy which is due to begin on December 8.
Responding to the papal appeal was William F. B. O'Reilly, a Republican consultant, who said that Pope Francis is 'holier than thou on immigration." Writing at Newsday, O'Reilly said of the Argentina-born pontiff: "I keep thinking of where to move my family in the unlikely event that Donald Trump becomes president. But then Pope Francis answered my question: Vatican City. Surely the city of 800 has room for five more, even if my wife isn't Catholic. This pope is spending so much time preaching open borders that the Swiss Guard must be preparing our suite now." O'Reilly said he was tired of the Pope using the United States as a "punching bag" with regard to "immigration, global warming, and capitalism." He said that the Pope's remarks, "...too often sound like regurgitated talking points of a hard ideological left that's had the U.S. in its crosshairs for generations."
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