Francis and the Community of Sant'Egidio

Suppose Francis had gone to Lesbos, even with the accompanying Orthodox leaders, preached and talked to refugees, then departed for Rome. Nothing more. He would have made a verbal point, but not a "human" point.

But he decided to welcome12 refugees onto his plane to travel with him to Vatican City. The group was 100 percent Muslim, all from Syria ... another way of saying that a person's faith should not be a determining factor when deciding whom to rescue from suffering, homelessness and even statelessness. I can only imagine what wonderment those refugees experienced as they boarded Francis' plane and finally landed in Italy.

In offering such a welcome, Pope Francis gave us another example of taking the Gospel seriously. Preaching becomes living. Words translate into action.

According to Josh McElwee's story, the Vatican said that the city-state (Vatican City) "will take responsibility for bringing in and maintaining the three families."

In fact, the 12 will be cared for specifically by the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome (with their living expenses probably funded by the Vatican for a time). This community is a group I learned about on a trip I made to Rome many years ago. Church reform groups in Italy praised that community highly for its service of the needy.

In fact, Sant'Egidio is well known and highly respected for its work with the poor and refugees. They have an extensive, news-filled website, and Wikipedia summarizes the community's activities well: "... setting up refuges for the old, hospices for AIDS patients, and printing a handbook titled 'Where to Eat, Sleep, and Wash in Rome' as gifts to the homeless. The lay Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio is among global leaders on HIV/AIDS, running programs across Africa, pushing scientific research inter alia on mother-child transmission, and advocating passionately that everyone deserves the best care." And this is not a formal "religious community"; these are largely lay folks.

They are, in short, a perfect ally for Pope Francis. And they are also an example of the "evolution" of what it means to live a "committed life" in the 21st century.

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here