Parishioners' homes for refugees not needed yet
OFFERS from parishioners in the north's biggest Catholic diocese to provide homes for Syrian refugees arriving in Northern Ireland are "not likely to be required at this stage".
Spare rooms have been offered by people living in the Down and Connor diocese after Pope Francis last month urged Catholic parishes, convents and monasteries across Europe to host refugee families.
It is hoped that with more than 80 parishes in the diocese of Down and Connor, homes could be offered to refugee families.
Earlier this week, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the north was expected to offer shelter to more than 100 refugees a year over the next five years.
He revealed the first arrivals could be here in December.
In an update to parishioners, Stephen McAnee from the Diocesan Pastoral Council said the Down and Connor Refugee Response team had now been set up.
It was established by Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor to help coordinate a response to the refugee crisis in Europe and Middle East.
The team, which includes senior representatives of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP), Trócaire, the Diocesan Pastoral Council, Embrace (NI) and other groups, have been meeting to consider how parishes can help.
In a bulletin circulated around the parishes in the diocese, Mr McAnee said the "most urgent need" from parishioners was "money to buy food in those places where the refugees are now".
He also appealed for donations of clothes, toiletries and furniture.
However, Mr McAnee added that the spare rooms offered by parishioners were not needed yet.
"While thanking those who are willing to offer space in their own home, the refugee specialists on the diocesan team have advised that spare rooms with local families are not likely to be required at this stage," he said.
"The diocese is in contact with local government to establish when refugees will begin to arrive and what additional needs they may have once they are here.
"It is clear that the most important thing they will need is to experience a warm and hospitable welcome from local parishes and other communities."
He said the response team would be contacting parishioners with further details and recommendations over coming weeks.