Today’s second reading declares the real test of faith: “If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.”
Here is what the Bishops of England and Wales have said about Pope Francis’ challenge to the whole Church in the face of the current refugee crisis:
At last Sunday’s Angelus, 6 September, Pope Francis invited every parish, religious house and monastery in Europe to respond to the growing refugee crisis by offering a place of sanctuary to families fleeing from war and persecution in their home countries. The Pope calls on our generosity and solidarity to recognise and act upon our common humanity.
The UK government has agreed to receive and resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees from the camps in neighbouring countries over the next five years. The Catholic Church in England and Wales will work alongside Government and local authorities to offer welcome and support to those in need.
The refugee crisis is a huge challenge, not only in Europe and the Middle East, but in many others parts of the world where large numbers of refugees live deeply uncertain and perilous lives. Consequently, as a Catholic community, and as a country, we need to be committed to helping refugees over a long period. To sustain that effort we need moral imagination.
We recognise that we can all contribute and play a part in helping to support the most vulnerable of refugees. Such assistance includes prayer, financial support, time and professional skills (e.g. language teaching, legal help, advocacy), shelter and accommodation.
We can all be attentive to those who are vulnerable and newly arrived in our local communities and parishes. A warm welcome can be the most simple yet effective of gifts we can all offer.
Archbishop Malcolm has appointed Steve Atherton, our diocesan Justice and Peace Fieldworker to co-ordinate our response; he will liaise with the local authority and other faith groups to match offers of time, talents and accommodation with the pressing needs of the local area. How do you think our parish community should respond?