“Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing death by war and by hunger, and who are on a path toward a hope for life, the Gospel calls us to be neighbors to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope …. May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family, starting with my diocese of Rome”
Pope Francis – Angelus – 6th September 2015
It is almost 3 years since our Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke these words to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly Sunday Angelus. In that time Dioceses around the world have answered the call by housing those fleeing from Humanitarian Crises around the world. The Archdiocese of Cardiff has already welcomed refugees in our capital city; and today Archbishop George Stack dedicated two houses in our second city, Newport. The parish of All Saints, Newport has taken the disused presbytery at St. Michael’s, Pillgwenlly and converted it into two three bedroom homes to house refugee families.
The work has been done in partnership with Newport City Council as part of a relocation agreement the city has with the U.K. government. The Council has committed to housing 50 refugee families over 5 years as part of the UK Government’s resettlement plan for 20,000 refugees. With the work completed at St. Michael’s two families are now able to take up residence bringing Newport to 15 families housed within the city. Speaking at the dedication ceremony Archbishop George spoke of the need for concrete action for those in need. “Praying for refugees every Sunday is one thing, but as a Christian community we (the Church) are called to do what we can to help relieve the suffering of others. This magnificent building is an expression of concrete action embodying Gospel Values and answering the call of Pope Francis” he said.
Also present at the ceremony was Councillor Mark Whitcutt, Deputy Leader of Newport City Council and Council member for equalities. He expressed the gratitude of the council to the Catholic Church for making the building available and spoke of the important link between civic authorities and religious organisations working together in times of need. Mr. Whitcutt said that the project undertaken by the Diocese is “… a bold statement of joint working with faith communities & partners” and hopes that the Diocese and Newport City Council can work closely in the future on other projects.
The converted presbytery will welcome its first tenants on Thursday as two refugee families move into the houses. Eva Abdulla & Gahada Yassin of the Council’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) have worked closely with the Diocese throughout the project, and was project managed by Mr Christopher Jones, the Diocesan Property Manager and Architect. The Diocese is committed to working closely with local authorities on social action within the community. Archbishop George expressed his great hope that as the local community of St. Michael’s, Pillgwenlly prepare to welcome the two families this may be the beginning of a wider outreach within Newport through the All Saints parish with its now nine church communities.
Fr. Michael Doyle, parish priest of All Saints, told how he and the Pastoral Team have now called upon the expanded ‘All Saints, Newport’ to focus on the threefold call of Christ ‘To love God; to love our neighbour; and to make disciples’ as a joint focus for moving forward. He recalled: “St. Michael’s church and its presbytery were made possible with the pennies and the labour of Irish Immigrants in the 19th century. Today’s event brings things full circle as the house is, fittingly repurposed, to welcome modern day immigrants who search for freedom and a better life in Newport”. Archbishop George and Fr. Michael have committed the parish to working closely with Newport City Council and the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to provide opportunities for outreach, education, housing, and fellowship for the people of Newport and those who have fled home in the midst of crises. Fr. Michael has already begun talks with the VPRS to aid local community events or the integration of those being welcomed into the city, and the formation of existing communities to assist those coming into Newport.
Pictured: (L-R) Eva Abdulla (VPRS), Mr Christopher Jones, Gahada Yassin (VPRS), Archbishop George Stack, Councillor Mark Whitcutt (Deputy Leader of Newport City Council) and Fr. Michael Doyle.