Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive in Greece. Photo by Ggia via Wikimedia Commons


During his US trip, we heard Pope Francis give a powerful plea to our nation on behalf of refugees, urging us not to be taken aback by the great numbers but to always treat displaced people as human beings.

On September 17th, the Holy Father spoke directly to groups working in the Iraqi-Syrian humanitarian crisis and offered them gratitude and encouragement. The meeting, which took place at the Vatican, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” and 30 Catholic charitable organizations were invited to attend along with representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Hierarchy of Syria and Iraq.
Giampaolo Silvestri, Secretary General, was there to represent the AVSI network which has been involved in the Middle East refugee crisis since 2013.
The working session was called to assess the humanitarian efforts of the past three years and to identify future priorities with particular attention to promoting synergies between Catholic agencies and local institutions as they respond to the continuing crisis. Care was also taken to evaluate the particular needs of Christian communities who are paying the greatest toll in terms of violence and insecurity.
The apex of the meeting was the audience with Pope Francis who addressed all those gathered. Full address available here.

We would like to share with you some of His Holiness’ main points, especially as they guide our programming in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan focused on children, youth education and protection within families and communities.
“…I am grateful for the assistance brought to the victims of the crisis in Syria, Iraq and neighboring countries, as well as for the comfort that your presence and your work inspire in those who suffer….. In this ocean of pain, I urge you to give special attention to the material and spiritual needs of the weakest and most defenseless: I think particularly of the families, the elderly, the sick and the children… With the continuation of the conflict, millions of children are deprived of the right to education and, consequently, they see the horizon of their future becoming obscured. Do not miss your commitment in this vital area….”
We thank the many of you who already support our programs and invite all of you to share our work with friends and invite new donors to join in our campaign.

Ezio Castelli