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Refugee crisis: Pope appeals to European parishes to take in 1 family each

Pope Francis calls on every European parish and religious community to take in one migrant family each, in a gesture of solidarity he said would start in the tiny Vatican state where he lives.

Francis pleads to tens of thousands of Catholic parishes as refugees arrive over land in record numbers

Pope Francis, in his blessing to faithful during noon prayer from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square in Rome, on Sunday said the Vatican will shelter two families of refugees 'who are fleeing death' from war or hunger. He urged Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to do the same. (Riccardo De Luca/Associated Press)

Pope Francis has called on every European parish and religious community to take in one migrant family each, in a gesture of solidarity he said would start in the tiny Vatican state where he lives.

"I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe to ... take in one 
family of refugees," he said after his Sunday address in Vatican City. 

The Pope's call goes out to tens of thousands of Catholic parishes in Europe as the number of refugees arriving over land through the Balkans and across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece hits record levels.

There are more than 25,000 parishes in Italy alone, and more than 12,000 in Germany, where many of the Syrians fleeing civil war and people trying to escape poverty and hardship in other countries say they want to end up.

The crowd in St. Peter's Square applauded as the pontiff, himself the grandson of Italians who immigrated to Argentina, said: "Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family."

In a separate message on Sunday, the Pope made an apparent criticism of a wall Hungary is building at the EU's border.

"It is violence to build walls and barriers to stop those who look for a place of peace. It is violence to push back those who flee inhuman conditions in the hope of a better future," he said in a letter to a Church association meeting in Albania.

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      The Vatican's two parishes will take in a family of refugees each in the coming days, said Francis, whose first trip after 
      his election was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, where many migrants arrive by boat.
       
      The Italian Coast Guard said on Saturday it had co-ordinated the rescue of 329 migrants who made distress calls from their rubber boats.

      Francis said taking in migrant families was a "concrete gesture" to prepare for the extraordinary Holy Year on the theme of mercy which is due to begin on Dec. 8.

      Cypriot authorities said Sunday they rescued 114 people believed to be refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. The pope's call goes out to tens of thousands of Catholic parishes in Europe as the number of refugees and migrants arriving through the Balkans, Italy and Greece hits record levels. (Philippos Christou/Associated Press)

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