WYD: Syrian refugee, an ex-homeless, and the youth of Sant’Egidio carry the cross during the Via Crucis with Pope Francis

gmgTonight in Krakow, in the first station of the Via Crucis with Pope Francis, almost two dozen Youth of the Sant’Egidio from Italy, Argentina, Ukraine, and Pakistan, carried the cross alongside several Syrian refugees and Polish couple who until not long ago was living on the street.



Some of their stories and comments, directly from the WYD:

Rana and Maher are Melkite Christians who have fled the war in Syria and have been welcomed in Rome by the Community of Sant’Egidio. They lived well in Damask, where they were born and studied. Rana remembers: “After by studies in economics I was able to find work in a bank. I speak English well and so my supervisor had given me a higher position.” In Rome, Rana attends the School of Italian Language and Culture of Sant’Egidio and is quickly learning the Italian language. “I miss my work,” he admits, “and I would like to enroll in a University, here in Italy, in order to find a better job.”

Maher had to leave Syria within a day. “One morning I found my store had been bored, and on it written ‘Today the store, tomorrow you’ and so I had to leave everything: my family, my ties, my memories. I left for Europe where I met Sant’Egidio. I thank them from the bottom of my heart because I risked my life to arrive in Italy, but they, through the Humanitarian Corridors, are helping so many of my brothers in these months. And they never forget to pray for peace in Syria.”

Dorota and Edek, originally from Slesia, met in a waiting room in the airport of Varsavia. They were not however leaving. After a life full of work – Dorota in a soup kitchen, Edek in a mine – they both found themselves living on the street. It is on the streets that they met the youth of the Community of Sant’Egidio who every week, in Varsavia, distributed food to the homeless, stop and speak with them, and form a friendship. One year ago, they were given the opportunity of a new home, thanks to the friendship with the youth. Dorota tells that, today in Krakow, “it seems to be in a dream, but it isn’t: I truly have a family and a one. Because I have Edek, but also because I have these young people, with whom I will carry the cross tonight.” and Edek says: “I feel great in the midst of all the youth from around the world. I would have never thought to see Pope Francis from so close. If I could tell him something, I would simply thank him for all of the times he said ‘help those who are poor, lonely, and sick.'”

Giulia studies medicine at La Sapienza, a University in Rome. Born in Rome, she met university students of the Community through an event on Facebook and has not left them since. Every week she meets with them for prayer and to prepare food for the homeless, which gets distributed to those in the neighborhoods around San Lorenzo and Termini station. “I like that we are all young” says Giulia, ” and that we can do a lot together. I have seen many difficult situation change. But carrying the cross, I cannot help, but think of Antonio and Mimmo, two of my friends living on the street, who died only a couple months ago.”