The Bishops of England and Wales have welcomed a European Union quota deal to share 120,000 refugees between member states.
The deal, which was opposed by the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, only covers a minority of the half a million or so refugees who have arrived in Europe over the past few months.
Nine countries of central and eastern Europe are being asked to take only about 15,000 of the total between them. Germany and France, meanwhile, will take 15,000 each.
Bishop Patrick Lynch, bishop for migration, said the quotas would bring a “fairer relocation of refugees across Europe along with a more co-ordinated approach in handling the migrant crisis”.
The bishop also welcomed the arrival of the first Syrian refugees to Britain. Over the next five years the Government has promised to resettle 20,000.
But he called on the British Government to take in more refugees from camps bordering Syria before the start of winter.
He said: “We urge the UK Government to commit the resources necessary for the implementation of the resettlement programmes for the short and long term, beyond the period for which funding is guaranteed to local authorities.
“Meanwhile we will continue to encourage our government to do more by providing legal and safe routes into the UK. We will support our government to bring in more vulnerable women and children before the winter approaches and to cut off the illegal routes of traffickers and people smugglers,” the bishop said.
Bishop Lynch said the Government must also push for peace in Syria “with the urgency that the situation deserves”.
He also thanked Catholics in England and Wales for their prayers and donations since Pope Francis’s call to take action to support refugees.
“In the last few months we have witnessed desperation, human misery, loss of lives and tensions but we have also witnessed love, compassion and generosity.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank Catholics in our dioceses in England and Wales for their prayerful support and generous donations in cash and in kind since Pope Francis’ call for concrete action in the current migration crisis in Europe.
“We urge you to continue to live the Gospel in Christian witness and service to ‘Show hospitality to the strangers’. We encourage you to reach out in love and welcome the refugees in your lives, your homes, your parishes, your communities and in the UK. We invite you to stand in solidarity with the refugees and give them HOPE that the Syrian war will end,” the bishop said.