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Derry parish to house three refugee families

Syrian refugees react as they arrive after crossing aboard a dinghy from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Seamus McKinney

A DERRY parish has responded to Pope Francis’s appeal to house Syrian refugees by offering three homes - and even a car - for migrant families.

Priests from Three Patrons parish in Pennyburn and greater Shantallow met yesterday to come up with a response to the Pope’s appeal.

The move is believed to be the first direct initiative by a parish in the north to the Pope's appeal.

A Migrant Outreach Committee has also been formed which will be chaired by Fr Micheál McGavigan.

Last weekend, Pope Francis urged every Catholic parish in Europe to house at least one refugee family fleeing the Syrian war. The Pope said the radical initiative would start with the Vatican accepting refugees.

Fr McGavigan said the Three Patrons parish would provide information this weekend about an appeal by charity Trocáire for contributions to finance its work on the ground with migrants.

He said: “This is the national church response. At a local parish level, I feel that people would be keen and willing to help at a practical level.”

The priest said the new committee would also include parishioners wanting to help, including a builder, a social worker, a housing officer, a teacher and an accountant.

“The plan is that as a parish we want to be ready to house and support at least three migrant families.

“This will involve, at a practical level, the parish organising and financing: three houses within the parish for three families; financing the running costs of these houses; assisting with school placement; providing supplies for their house, including food and clothing; arranging language lessons if needed,” he said.

Fr McGavigan said the parish also intended providing transport in the form of the use of a car between the three families as well as helping with employment opportunities.

He said: “On another level we wish the families that come here to feel welcome and supported. Having three families in close proximity will not leave them feeling isolated.”

Parishioners will be invited to contribute to the parish outreach over the next few weeks, he said.

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