Pope Francis reneges on offer to take in Catholic refugees
[“No Catholics need apply”]
By Yaron Steinbuch
April 22, 2016 | nypost.com/2016/04/22/pope-francis-reneges-on-offer-to-take-in-christian-refugees/
A Christian [i.e., Catholic] brother and sister from Syria felt blessed to have been among the dozen refugees selected to start a new life in Italy — but now say their savior, Pope Francis, abandoned them on a Greek island, according to a report.
Roula and Malek Abo, who had been housed in a refugee camp on Lesbos, said they thanked their lucky stars when they found out the Vatican had selected them during the pontiff’s visit to the island last week, the Daily Mail reported.
Their dreams were shattered, though, when they were informed the following day that they would not be traveling to Rome. Instead, three Muslim families were taken.
Asked why they were all Muslim, Francis said there was something wrong with the papers of a Christian family on the list.
The siblings arrived in Greece on April 1 — 10 days after a controversial European Union deal called for asylum-seekers in Greece to be returned to Turkey.
Their hopes to avoid deportation now hinge on their applications for asylum.
“If they can do this for 12 people, they can do it for more,” Roula, 22, told the paper. “If you have promised to take people back to Italy, will something like registration papers stand in your way?”
Community Sant’Egidio, the charity that organized the trip, and the Vatican would not explain the process involved in choosing the migrants.
“The problem here is the three Syrians arrived after the March 20 deadline. They arrived just after the agreement between the European Union and Turkey,” spokesman Massimiliano Signifredi told the Daily Mail.
“Our staff went to Lesbos and spoke with the people who were selected. But everything was decided by the Vatican,” he said.
“The question why the pope took only Muslims is difficult to understand and he was suffering, I think, because he wanted to do something also for Christians as the chief of the Catholic Church. But he couldn’t because there is this international agreement [with the EU],” he said.
The Vatican declined comment.
Roula said she, her brother, 28, and their friend Samir, also 28, had been approached by three volunteers believed to be from Sant’Egidio a few days before Francis arrived.
“They said they would take us to Italy, to pack our bags and to meet them the next day,” she told the Daily Mail. “It was so secretive — they didn’t announce it to anybody and we were told to keep it a secret.”
Samir told the paper he was devastated when he found out they would not be going to Rome after all.
“I was so excited to go to Italy — it was such a relief,” he said. “They offered me my future on a plate, and then 24 hours later they took it away.”