The Vatican City seems to be ready to practise what Pope Francis preaches, at least on the subject of immigration, by housing a family of refugees who had fled the Syrian civil war. The family of four – Melkite Greek Catholics from Damascus – arrived in Italy on 6 September and have since asked for asylum. On that day, Pope Francis called for every Catholic parish in Europe to take in at least one refugee family who are suffering from "death from war and hunger".
"Every Catholic parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe should accommodate one family, beginning with my diocese of Rome," he told a group of thousands during the Sunday Angelus prayer.
On Friday 18 September, the Vatican announced: "According to the law, for the first six months following the request for asylum those seeking international protection cannot work. During this time, they will be helped and accompanied by the Parish of Santa Anna."
Santa Anna is one of the two parishes in the Vatican City, the other being the St Peter's Basilica, which is also expected to house a second Syrian family. Francis' appeal to 120,000 parishes across Europe to take in one family each has received a mixed response, with some clerics openly opposed to the idea of welcoming in Muslims. There were 150,000 Melkite Greek Catholics in Damascus in 2010.