The pope, the good samaritan and the refugees

The blessed few: The church said the families were chosen ‘randomly’. © PA

Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, has offered three refugee families a home. He has been called a ‘good samaritan’ — but will his decision achieve anything important?

What’s happening

The pope has invited three families — 12 people in total — to a home in the Vatican. The families were living on Lesbos, the Greek island where thousands of migrants have arrived. Some compared his decision to the Christian parable of the good samaritan, a man who saves a stranger when others pass by.

Find out more

Around 4,000 migrants live on Lesbos at the moment, and about 850,000 passed through the island in 2015. One of the people there says it has become like a ‘prison’ recently.

The migrants have come from Africa and the Middle East. Some, like Wafa, the mother of one of the three families, have fled the war in Syria.

Wafa said her six-year-old son Omar had ‘barely spoken’ since they left Damascus, the capital of Syria. Now, she added, the pope had ‘given us a new life’.

The pope said ‘all children are refugees of God’. He said his decision was not political, but one newspaper said the pope had ‘made clear’ that Europe should ‘not shun’ refugees.

Some say…

The pope’s decision does not mean very much. Thousands of refugees still desperately need help. The crisis on Lesbos is very complex, and this decision will not change European politicians’ minds. It is no more than a gesture which will make little difference to refugees’ lives.

Others think…

The decision sends a powerful message to Europe’s politicians. This is typical of the way he has behaved — he has washed the feet of prisoners and he lives away from the grand palace which other popes have lived in. The good samaritan from the parable only acted as a gesture — but his behaviour is still remembered 2,000 years later.

You Decide

  1. Will the pope’s decision make other people accept more refugees?

Activities

  1. Write down five things you would do if you were made pope for the day.

Some People Say...

“A true good samaritan needs to have money.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Refugee
Someone who has been forced to leave their home because of a war or other disaster.
Vatican
The home of the Catholic church in Rome. The Vatican is its own country - but only 450 people live there.
Parable
A simple story with a clear moral message, told by Jesus in the Bible’s New Testament.
Migrants
People who move from one country to another. This includes refugees, who flee disaster, and people who move for other reasons.
Gesture
A movement intended to express meaning, and so an action designed for show to convey a message.

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