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“But, Father, Was It Right for the Pope to Save Muslim Refugees Instead of Christians?”


Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp on April 16, 2016 in the Greek island of Lesbos. Twelve Syrian refugees were accompanying Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome after his visit to Lesbos on Saturday and will be housed in the Vatican, the Holy See said. Pope Francis, Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II visit Lesbos today to turn the spotlight on Europe's controversial deal with Turkey to end an unprecedented refugee crisis. AFP PHOTO POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP PHOTO / POOL / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Ary Waldir Ramos Diaz - published on 04/26/16 - updated on 06/08/17

A priest responds to a young volunteer upset that Francis brought 3 non-Christian families back to Rome, from Greece

Many people have criticized the pope for bringing three Muslim refugee families back to Rome with him after his visit to Lesbos in Greece.

Some consider it an offense, and have even labeled the Vatican insensitive for helping these families while the situation of Iraqi and Syrian Christians continues to be so dire.

It should be noted that the pope already gave asylum to two Christian refugee families and that the Holy See is constantly assisting the Christians in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, the prophetic gesture of the pope is directed, above all, to an uncaring West that hides itself behind differences of race or religion in order to close off borders.

If the leader of the Catholic Church brings in refugees from a different religion, what excuse is left the West? Our grandmothers had a very Christian expression, “Hacer el bien y no mirar a quien” (Do good without looking to see who is benefiting from your good work).

We must open our hearts, understanding that refugees — before being numbers or members of this or that religion — are people, faces, names, histories.

A volunteer who is very committed to his work in the Church collecting donations to help persecuted Christians asked Fr. Damian, his parish priest, with some indignation: “Was it right for Pope Francis to return from his trip to Lesbos with 12 refugees on his plane who were all Muslim? What about the persecuted Christians? Didn’t they have more right to get this assistance?”

The priest looked into the youth’s eyes with tenderness and recounted this story:

Heavy rains were pounding an archipelago, where some fishermen lived and worked. Families of various religions waited on their roofs hoping for the luck of being saved. The houses, made of reeds and bamboo, couldn’t resist the force of the storm. One of the fishermen, though knowing that he couldn’t save everyone, hurriedly climbed in his boat in defiance of the deluge.

In the midst of his quest, this man found himself beside a family struggling to keep their heads above the water, which was already arriving to their necks. He asked the father of the family, who was struggling to keep one of the small children afloat, “Brother, are you Christian?”

And again, raising his voice above the raging din of the ocean, “Are you Christian?”

To such a question, the worried father didn’t know what to reply, as the waters filled his throat and his strength waned in his desperate effort to save his child. Soon, both disappeared, swallowed in the squall.

Further on, he saw a woman still able to cling to the edge of her hut jump into the water, concerned only with the safety of her child and her husband already in the water, and then he didn’t see her again.

The fisherman turned the boat and continued more determined than ever to search for Christians to save.

Soon a great wave crashed against his boat and his oars struck his head.

The fisherman began to sink as a light from heaven opened and a voice from the clouds called out to him, “Are you a Christian?”

Bewildered by the blow, the fisherman yet yelled out with all his strength, “Yes, I am a Christian. I am a Christian! Lord, I am a Christian!”

And the voice from heaven echoed in his head, “Why didn’t you save your brothers? Why did you allow them to drown?”

He saw in the distance a boat breaking through the waves to save him from imminent danger. A sailor’s callused hand reached down and grasped him around the neck, rescuing him from certain death.

“You are a good Christian! The Lord has sent you,” the fisherman exclaimed with joy.

The bearded sailor looked back at the fisherman with surprise. “I am not a Christian.” And he added, “But I am sure that you would have done the same for me.”

And the fisherman began to weep uncontrollably. As Father Damian concluded the story, the young volunteer was left speechless. The priest hugged him and said, “Remember the Good Samaritan.”

Translated from the Spanish.

FaithPope FrancisRefugees

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