Pope Francis to Host Refugees and JRS

A Syrian family walks in the direction of the Tovarnik train station in Croatia. JRS South East Europe is providing support to forced migrants in Macedonia, Kosovo and Croatia on a daily basis. (Sergi Cámara — Jesuit Refugee Service)

Fifteen refugees, as well as staff and friends of Jesuit Refugee Service, will attend a private audience with Pope Francis on Saturday, Nov. 14. The pope will speak about the importance of education for refugee children and youth as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies. 

The event will commemorate the 35th anniversary of JRS, founded on November 14, 1980 by the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (Find out more about a 35th Anniversary celebration for JRS in New York on Dec. 1.) 

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Pope Francis has long urged Catholics to welcome refugees, saying the world is currently suffering from a "globalization of indifference," ignoring those who cry out for mercy. On Saturday, as a precursor to the Holy Year of Mercy to launch on 8 December, the Pope will formally recognize and pledge support for the JRS Global Education Initiative, an initiative aimed to extend JRS' educational programs to 100,000 additional refugees by the year 2020.

Refugees face a variety of barriers trying to access education, from overcrowding in schools to xenophobia in host communities. Their fundamental right to education is often lost. Among refugee children globally, only 36 percent attend secondary school and less than one percent have the opportunity to pursue a higher education.

For 35 years, JRS has provided quality education as a tool for people to better fulfill their own potential and fully contribute to the growth, strength and stability of their communities. Schools allow those who have been forced to flee their homes to rebuild a shared space, a community, a sense of normality.

Pope Francis has historically called the public to protect refugees and care for the most vulnerable. Access to education can keep children safe and protected from risks, including gender-based violence, recruitment into armed groups, child labor and early marriage.

The audience will take place in the Sala Clementina in the Vatican. Though not able to enter the Sala Clementina, interested press will be able to watch a live feed of the event from the Sala Stampa of the Holy See located at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. Interviews may be conducted before the event with several refugees and JRS International Director, Fr Thomas Smolich S.J., from 9-10am at the JRS international office at Via Borgo Santo Spirito, 8.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. 

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