I would like once again to urge the welcoming of the many refugees, in whom Christ is present, and to give thanks for the great network of solidarity that has formed”. These are Pope Francis’ words at the Angelus on Sunday 13 March 2022.

This is the beginning of solidarity throughout the Franciscan world, as in Sicily where “so far we have taken in 18 people, most of them women and children. Two families left after a few days to rejoin other families who are in other European countries” according to Br Antonio Catalfamo, Minister Provincial of Sicily. He sees it as a practical response to the consequences of the war ravaging Ukraine for three weeks now.

Br Antonio added that “the welcome is being made in all our friaries but particularly in the Baida friary in Palermo. Several families too of the OFS are also available to welcome”.

According to a report by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the war in Ukraine has affected 18 million people, of whom 6.7 million are internally displaced, and almost 3 million have fled to neighbouring countries, especially Poland, which has so far taken in almost 2 million refugees. It is estimated that if the situation does not improve, the number of people who have fled Ukraine may rise to 4 million by July.