Have we forgotten how to weep? (Pope Francis)

In July 2013, Pope Francis visited Lampedusa, Italy, the landing place for the thousands of asylum seekers who had fled across the sea in search of better lives. He saw the anguished faces of parents desperately clutching their children, experienced the raw grief of those whose loved ones had perished on the treacherous journey and saw the fear and uncertainty in the eyes of the adults who had fled.


Pope Francis praised the people of Lampedusa for the example of love, charity and hospitality that they have set for humankind. Then Francis asked, “Has any one of us wept because of this situation? Are we a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion?”

The St Vincent de Paul Society has determined to respond to the challenge offered by Pope Francis. The Society launched its 2018 Social Justice Project declaring we will stand with people seeking protection. We will try to build a society of love, charity and hospitality. We will welcome all those who come to us, from wherever and however they come, with compassion and respect for their dignity.

Who are refugees?

Refugees are men, women and children who have well founded fears of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, and who cannot return home because this would expose them to a risk of persecution.

Who are asylum seekers?

People seeking protection or ‘asylum’ are men, women and children whose claim for refugee status has not yet been assessed. People seeking protection are not illegal immigrants. They are not breaking any laws. Under Australian law, a person is entitled to apply for asylum if s/he is escaping persecution.

The St Vincent de Paul

Australia has a long history of accepting refugees.

We remember all those, who in our lifetimes, have fled to Australia for protection:

  • The refugees from World War II                
  • The refugees from the Vietnam War
  • The refugees from the wars in Africa
  • The refugees from the ongoing war in Syria.

Today we struggle with accepting those who flee to Australia seeking protection. We live with the shame of Manus and Nauru.

The St Vincent de Paul Society recommends that the Australian Government:

Ensures safety is provided to all people held in offshore detention.

  1. Strictly limits the use of onshore detention.
  2. Ensures that people’s refugee status determination is resolved in a just and speedy manner.
  3. Co-operates with our neighbours in the region to provide safety for people fleeing persecution.
  4. Never sends people back to a place where they are likely to be harmed.


Please write to your Federal Member of Parliament asking that s/he support these recommendations. Click here for details.

Let us remember that “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories and need to be treated as such.” Pope Francis.

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Carmel Hanson rsj Image
Carmel Hanson rsj

Carmel Hanson rsj is the Co-ordinator of the House of Hospitality at Broadmeadow, NSW.

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