Jesuit joins Bishops' migration crisis meeting

Refugees rest in Hungary after fleeing from Syria. Mstyslav Chernov/Creative Commons
Refugees rest in Hungary after fleeing from Syria. Mstyslav Chernov/Creative Commons

The Jesuit Bishop of Aleppo in Syria was one of the participants at a meeting of bishops from the Middle East, southern and western Europe, convened by COMECE (the Conference of European Bishops) to discuss migration. Catholic experts from the field also took part in the meeting in Heiligenkreuz, Austria, entitled 'Facing a crisis with many faces'.

A member of the Chaldean-Catholic Church, Bishop Antoine Audo SJ of Aleppo has been a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People since 2011 and is the President of Caritas Syria. In recent years, he has taken part in several conferences in the UK, as the guest of the Jesuits in Britain and Aid to the Church in Need, including at Heythrop College, University of London, Farm Street Church in London and several Jesuit schools in Britain.

In 2014, Bishop Audo described the situation in Syria in an article in The Telegraph: “Most Christians who could afford to leave Aleppo have already fled for Lebanon, so as to find schools for their children,” he wrote. “Those who remain are mostly from poor families. Many can no longer put food on the table. Last year, even amid intense fighting, you could see people in the streets running around endlessly trying to find bread in one of the shops … The health system has also fallen apart. In the hospitals, many doctors have been threatened and forced to flee, so people fear that if they do get injured there will be no one to treat them.”

A Christian resolve to accompany migrants

‘Facing a crisis with many faces’ was convened by the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Mgr Agidius Zsifkovics, in his capacity as COMECE co-ordinator on Refugees, Migration and Integration. "The suffering of people, of men, women and children, make it essential for us to engage in frank and constructive discussion", the bishop stated. He emphasised how the Church's aim is to accompany migrants, to walk side by side with them into the future and said that the fact that so many Church representatives took the trouble to come to the meeting in Austria was a "powerful sign" of Christian resolve.

In addition to Bishop Audo, the gathering in Heiligenkreuz last week brought together cardinals, bishops and other Church representatives from Syria, Iraq, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Austria and Scandinavia, including the Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo and the Chaldean-Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako.