By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 September, 2015
The family, consisting of a father, mother and their two children, come from Damascus and are Greek Melkite Catholics.
In its statement, the Vatican said the family arrived in Italy on 6 September, the very day that Pope Francis made his appeal for European parishes to open their doors to refugees and he also promised that the Vatican too would take in two refugee families.
The Syrian family is living in an apartment belonging to the Vatican in the vicinity of St Peter’s Basilica.
The four Syrians have since asked for asylum.
In its statement, the Vatican said according to law, for the first six months following the request for asylum, those seeking international protection cannot work and during this time they will be helped and accompanied by the Vatican’s Parish of Santa Anna.
The Syrian family has not been named and the statement asked the media to respect the family’s wish not to be contacted or asked to give interviews.
In his address to the faithful on 6 September during Sunday’s Angelus, Pope Francis appealed, “May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family.”
He told the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square that the faithful are called to offer a concrete gesture of hope as indicated in the Gospel.
The tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger “calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned”.
Reminding the faithful of the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Pope said that offering shelter to the needy is a “concrete act of preparation” for the Holy Year.
He asked the bishops of Europe to support his appeal and said that in the coming days two Vatican parishes would each be taking in a family of refugees.
Fr Lombardi also underlined that the Pope’s request to all parishes, religious communities, monasteries and sanctuaries to offer shelter to forced migrants and refugees currently in search of refuge, was aimed at the “whole of Europe” and not just a few isolated realities.
The Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis was urging catholic communities to take the lead in “welcoming our refugee and migrant brothers and sisters in a moment in which the gravity of their situation represents the most urgent question currently to be tackled on the continent”.
He highlighted that the Pope’s appeal for solidarity and welcome calls for a creative and generous response in preparation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a preparation that must come to life through concrete works of charity.
“He is not,” Fr Lombardi said, “referring to organisational or logistic preparations”.