Italy prepares to welcome 600 Ukrainian refugees with the help of Caritas

ROME – As the war in Ukraine draws closer to a month and the millions of people who have fled seek refuge and protection elsewhere in Europe, Italy is hosting generous numbers and preparing to receive 600 more people this week with the help from several NGOs.

In total, more than 3.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the first Russian invasion on February 24, according to the United Nations, and some 6.5 million people are internally displaced.

With the bulk of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, many have had to be relocated as shelters and local charities reach saturation levels and are unable to cope with the influx in Classes.

Of the 3.3 million people who have fled so far, Italy has taken in around 55,711, most of whom are women and children, according to the Italian Interior Ministry. Most arrived in big cities like Milan, Rome, Naples and Bologna.

Throughout this week, three humanitarian flights carrying around 600 Ukrainian refugees will land in Italy with the collaboration of the NGOs Solidaire and Open Arms.

Departing from Warsaw, these flights will land at the airports of Rome, Cagliari and Palermo. The people they transport will be welcomed and accommodated by around forty diocesan Caritas branches across the country, including several Italian islands.

Caritas organized a press conference with Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference to coincide with the flight’s arrival in Rome on Tuesday. Representatives of Solidaire and Open Arms will also attend.

Also taking part will be Archbishop Carlo Roberto Maria Redaelli of Gorizia, President of Caritas Italy, and Archbishop Gian Carlo Perego of Ferrara-Comacchio, President of the Migrantes Foundation.

Italy has been one of the most receptive countries to Ukrainian countries since the start of the war 25 days ago and made a specific offer to accept children in need of medical care.

On Saturday afternoon, Pope Francis visited several of these children who are receiving their treatment at the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome. There are currently 19 Ukrainian children in treatment at Bambino Gesu. About fifty have arrived since the beginning of the war.

Some, including a 7-year-old girl with metastatic kidney cancer, are being treated in other places, such as Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, where popes usually receive their treatment and where Pope Francis underwent kidney surgery. colon last summer.

Most of the children fled shortly after the outbreak of war and suffer from various oncological and neurological conditions. There are also girls who have arrived recently and are receiving treatment for injuries sustained in missile explosions or bombings.

During his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled his visit to the children, noting that one was missing an arm and another suffered from a head injury caused by bombings in bomb or missiles.

He lamented the suffering of “innocent children” and noted that many people, especially those who cannot travel, such as the elderly and the sick, have been left behind as the bombs continue to fall.

“All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilege, as it goes against the sanctity of human life,” he said, and urged those leading the charge with their hospitality and donations not to let their generosity wane as the war continues.

“Let us not tire of welcoming generously, as we do: not only now, in an emergency, but also in the weeks and months to come, because you know that at the first moment we are all doing our best to welcome, but then the habit cools our hearts a bit and we forget,” he said.

In a video message on Saturday, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk also appealed for the world not to forget what Ukrainians are going through and to continue to intervene on their behalf.

“I want to appeal to all of you: do not close your hearts to the pain of Ukraine! Because one day the Lord God will tell you: I was injured in Ukraine, and you turned your face away from me,” he said.

Speaking directly to the international community and organizations involved on the ground, Shevchuk said, “I don’t believe that humanity today is powerless in the face of war.”

“All together, we can and must stop the war in Ukraine! Do not be deaf to the sighs, cries, tears of thousands of people in Ukraine. Open your heart to them! And let’s do everything together to end this horrible war,” he said.

As negotiations continue amid the steady fall of bombs and missiles in Ukraine, many of them in residential areas, resistance to war is growing not among citizens and the global community, but also among the allies of the Russian Orthodox Church, who criticized Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for his support for the war.

Recently, in Amsterdam, four priests and a deacon requested permission to leave the Russian Orthodox Church and join the Patriarchate of Constantinople because of Kirill’s position, and in recent days the head of the Russian Orthodox Church d estonia, Metropolitan Yevgeny added his voice to the criticism by signing a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Yevgeny had led the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate since 2018. With over 100,000 members, the Church falls, as its name suggests, under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Signed by the leaders of the member denominations of the Estonian Council of Churches, the statement reads: “We are witnessing terrible developments on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

“Thousands of people died, including innocent children, teenagers, the elderly. Tens of thousands were injured. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless or in distress due to fear, cold, hunger, thirst and poor health. Millions of people have been forced to leave,” the statement said.

As leaders of Estonia’s largest churches, “we condemn the bombing of humanitarian sites, including churches, and the threat to civilians”, it says, and declares the signatories’ commitment to provide practical assistance, food and shelter to refugees, regardless of their status. religious beliefs.

The Italian Catholic Blog The Seismographwhich publishes daily information about the Vatican and the Church in different languages, published a comment sent by a Russian Orthodox priest asking for prayers.

In his note, the priest, who Seismograph did not identify himself, said he had studied in Rome on a scholarship from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity through the Moscow Patriarchate, and that “many of us, and I feel like brothers in heart with you Catholics”.

“Now I and others ask you never to forget to include in your prayers also us Russians who have nothing to do with the plight of innocent people dying,” he said. .

He said he and his fellow clergy know many Russian mothers whose young sons were sent for military service and have since “disappeared”.

“They lost contact with them. In the barracks, they replied, “The boys are on a mission. It is certain that one died in Ukraine, but the body was never returned,” he said, asking Catholics to “pray for them too” and calling for prayer from Pope Francis.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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