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Migrant crisis: Church responds to Pope's call for every parish to shelter refugee family -

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ELEANOR HALL: To the Vatican now where the Pope is calling on Catholics across Europe to play their part in helping with the refugee crisis.

Pope Francis is urging every Catholic parish, convent, monastery and sanctuary to shelter a refugee family.

And even though the Pope was directly addressing Catholics in Europe, the Catholic Church in Australia is also embracing his call as Mandie Sami reports.

MANDIE SAMI: Speaking to pilgrims in St Peter's Square in the Vatican in Rome, Pope Francis urged every Catholic parish to take in a refugee family.

POPE FRANCIS (translated): We are faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees, in flight from death by war and by hunger.

The Gospel calls us to be neighbours to the smallest and most abandoned, to give them concrete hope.

It's not enough to say, 'Have courage, hang in there'. May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary in Europe host a family, starting with my own diocese of Rome.

MANDIE SAMI: Father Peter Smith is the director of the Justice and Peace Office for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

PETER SMITH: The Pope's words were actually in Europe where clearly it's more accessible for them but I would like to think that the Australian Church will do the same thing.

I've actually sent a tweet out this morning on behalf of my own parish saying how we already welcome refugees whenever we can and we'd be very happy to house and care for a family in the current crisis.

MANDIE SAMI: Do you think that the Australian Government is doing enough? We heard Tony Abbott over the weekend talk about Australia increasing the number of Syrian refugees that Australia takes on, except that the actual number, the refugee overall intake will not go up despite the circumstances?

PETER SMITH: No, indeed not. I was very disappointed to think that we haven't increased the total corpus that we were able to bring to this country. It seems to me we've become somewhat selfish.

We've got a very large country, very well-resourced. The Government, both former and present governments, keep telling us how well we've done out of the global financial crisis, how economically strong and secure we are.

I'd like to see that some of that economic strength and security was used to help those who are less fortunate than us, and indeed we've cut overseas funding gradually over the years.

MANDIE SAMI: What is your message to the Australian Government about what the Catholic Church would like to see happen?

PETER SMITH: I believe that the Catholic Church would like to see us increase the number of refugees and asylum seekers that we welcome to this country. I'd like to see the language changed, where we start being a bit more realistic. We're not stopping the boats; we're only diverting them to other places.

I'd also like to see that we would try and tackle part of the problem at its force - rather than more violence in Syria, I think that we could have a great influences as a nation to build peace and to build some bridges with Syria and try to encourage them to seek peace in their own land, but part of the way that we need to do that is by putting money into it, by caring for those who are most in need.

In one sense I don't think this is about charity, I believe it's about justice, where we live in what we continually hear to be the lucky country. Let's use some of that luck with those who don't have the same kind of luck.

You know, justice is not just about giving crumbs from the rich man's table, as the Gospel talks about. It's about really making some serious sacrifices with some of the things that maybe are going to cost us a little bit, maybe its foregoing part of that new development that we're doing with sporting facilities at Moore Park, maybe it's about cutting down on some of our expenditure on luxuries as a country.

You can always find money for sports and for the arts, as we should. I don't deny that, but I do think that we need to be able to find more money to care for those who are most in need in our world.

And, you know, I listen to the arguments that say but, you know, they take our jobs. Well, you know, they also create jobs.

They contribute an enormous amount, as we have seen right since the Secord World War, that migrants and refugees have built this country in so many wonderful ways.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Father Peter Smith, the director of the Justice and Peace Office for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney ending that report from Mandie Sami.