By Michael Crutcher
BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge says “the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands” that the archdiocese resettles at least 100 refugee families devastated by fighting in Syria.
Archbishop Coleridge last week issued a letter to the archdiocese outlining his hope that Brisbane could join the national effort to resettle 12,000 refugees
“I want to galvanise all the resources of the archdiocese so that we can play our part in providing a safe and welcoming home for refugees who will come from the Middle East,” Archbishop Coleridge wrote.
“Humanity requires it; the Gospel of Jesus Christ demands it. We have just over 100 parishes, and I would want to commit to receiving at least 100 families in the archdiocese.
“My hope is that these will be from among the neediest of the needy, whatever their religion may be.
“There is no doubt that the Christians are among the neediest, because they are caught in the crossfire of many battles.
“But, as people who know the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we will welcome all who come to us.”
The Federal Government announced last week that Australia would take in Syrian refugees on top of the nation’s normal humanitarian intake.
Government officials would head to the Middle East “as soon as possible” to begin a process including detailed security checks.
Archbishop Coleridge does not expect the refugees to arrive before Christmas, providing time for parishes to prepare.
He said parishes could help with accommodation and food while the archdiocesan network of schools, social welfare and health care would also be offered to the new families.
“We cannot expect the government to do everything to address a crisis as large and complex as this,” he wrote.
“We have to work with governments and others as we have in the past.
“The archdiocese has a history of assisting new arrivals to these shores, and that history has to continue now with new energy.”
Several parishes have already expressed their desire to help, drawing on extensive work already underway for refugee families.
Evangelisation Brisbane director Clyde Cosentino is forming a working group to oversee the archdiocesan response.
Mr Cosentino said the archdiocese would not be the first point of contact for government.
“This will be an orderly process under Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program,” he said.
“There are established settlement agencies in Brisbane that will be the first point of contact. They will indicate to us what the families require. And the Church will then be ready to work with them.”
Mr Cosentino said the archdiocesan working group would include a co-ordinator to work with parishes.
“We are drawing together a group that is very experienced in this field,” Mr Cosentino said.
“We can establish a framework that will ensure the Church is properly prepared.”
Several parishes in the archdiocese are already working closely with refugee families.
“That work will go on,” Mr Cosentino said.
“It’s important that we prepare for these new families but we can’t stop the work that has already been going on for some time throughout the archdiocese.”