A projected 200k Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their country are expected in Ireland, among those offering to open their homes are Ireland's priests.
One hundred and twenty priests, across 61 parishes, have been asked by the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin to offer their spare rooms to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
At the National Bishop's Council meeting last week all Irish bishops offered to take the lead on offering their homes to refugees. The Irish Times reported that Father Paul Byrne in Termonfeckin, County Louth, is among those to offer their homes.
He said “We have to take a lead in this to encourage others to free up any empty properties or holiday homes for short term use by the Red Cross for refugees.
“Some parishes may have no available parochial properties and some may have unused homes which have become vacant due to the death of a priest or a reduced number of clergy in the parish.
“The archbishop is encouraging priests where possible to offer a room in their home. Termonfeckin Parochial House may look big but most of the rooms have been renovated for pastoral meetings and community use so there is actually only one spare room.
“That spare room could be of use to an elderly priest from Ukraine who is seeking refuge or it may not be suited for anyone, depending on the assessment carried out by the Red Cross.”
He added, “We can’t ask people in the parish to welcome refugees into their own homes if we are not prepared to do the same."
A notice in this week’s parish bulletin states: “Fr Paul and the Pastoral Council would encourage people in the Parish to register on www.redcross.ie their pledge to accommodate refugees from Ukraine."
The Irish are expected to take in 200,000 refugees. By Saturday, already 13,214 refugees had arrived. Jody Clarke, the senior external relations associate at the Irish UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told BreakingNews.ie the Irish "realize it could be them".
"It is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe, but in terms of the amount of Ukrainians coming here it is really unprecedented," he said.
"With what is happening in Ukraine at the moment, people can see them fleeing.
"They see what is happening on the news and realise it could be them. That is why people are willing to open their doors to Ukrainian refugees."