CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 October 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
Church in Italy steps up to help migrants

ROME (CNS): Some 180 migrants, most from Eritrea, arrived at Mondo Migliore, a Catholic-run centre near Rome late on August 28 after officials from the Italian Bishops’ Conference negotiated their release from the Italian coast guard ship, Ubaldo Diciotti. 
 
They had been on the vessel for 11 days.
 
The migrants had been rescued from an overcrowded boat at sea on August 15, but Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow them to enter Italy. Eventually 13 were taken to Lampedusa for medical treatment.
 
The coast guard ship docked in Catania, Italy, on August 20 but Salvini still refused to allow the migrants off the boat, insisting that other countries in the European Union had an obligation to share the burden of caring for them. Under intense international pressure, he allowed the 27 unaccompanied minors aboard to disembark on August 22.
 
Following the August 25 announcement by Italian prosecutors that he was being formally placed under investigation for possible illegal detention and kidnapping, Salvini relented.
 
The Italian government then announced that Ireland and Albania each agreed to take 20 of the migrants while the Catholic Church in Italy offered to take the remaining 100.
Salvini tweeted, “After so much hard work, insults, threats and inquiries, we finally have the solution for the ship Diciotti.”
 
Returning to Rome from Ireland on August 26, Pope Francis said he was not involved in the negotiations, although he obviously had been regularly informed. He credited Father Aldo Buonaiuto, who works with people rescued from human trafficking, and Father Ivan Maffeis, one of the undersecretaries of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
 
Pope Francis told reporters that to “welcome the migrant, the stranger,” is a mandate as old as the Bible. “It is a moral principle.”
 
However, he said, for nations it must be done intelligently and with a plan for integrating the newcomers, particularly by teaching them the local language, customs and laws.
 
“The virtue of prudence,” he said, is “the virtue of governance,” explaining that a nation must be open to welcoming and helping migrants, but it also has to be realistic about the number of people it can absorb and the resources that will be needed to assist them as they get on their feet.
 
Domenico Alagia, director of Mondo Migliore, where most of the Diciotti passengers were taken, said the centre would provide them with medical care, psychological assistance and offer them a brief introduction to Italy.
 
Speaking to the Italian bishops’ news agency, SIR, Alagia said the migrants would remain at the centre in Rocca di Papa only a few days before moving on to a variety of Italian dioceses where the local Caritas organisations would help them settle and learn the language.

More from this section