SAN SEVERO, Italy – Bureaucratic miracles are his specialty, and on Monday he finalized one: Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski oversaw a contract offering a lifeline for thousands of refugees in the Italian region of Foggia.
“The pope told me yesterday he cares about that deal dearly,” Krajewski told Crux.
The cardinal is the Papal Almoner, responsible for the pope’s charitable works. Krajewski has transformed the office, handing out blankets to Rome’s homeless, funding soup kitchen, and famously – or notoriously – personally restoring power to a building occupied by squatters after the city turned the lights out in an effort to force them to leave.
He is known in the Vatican as “Don Corrado,” and among the press corps as “the pope’s Robin Hood.”
The deal is simple – the mayor of eastern Italy’s San Severo, on the outskirts of the region’s capital Foggia, Francesco Miglio, signed an agreement with local Bishop Giovanni Checchinato allowing every parish to be able to register migrants and refugees living under their roof. And there are thousands of them in the Foggia region.
The region is in the southern Italian province of Apulia, which forms the heel of Italy’s boot.
“What we achieved today is a milestone for migrants and refugees,” Krajewski said.
“Technically the bishop, through the parish pastors, is giving them the address [necessary to register] – which is the street of Guardian Angel, that’s what we agreed on – and with that confirmation they go to the city hall, get the paperwork and are free to live a normal life,” the cardinal told Crux.
Krajewski said that migrants present for the ceremony told him they had been promised this provision for nearly 20 years, without it happening: But with the intervention of the pope, it was achieved in a few days.
Refugees and migrants are living in dire conditions in the region of Foggia, often in temporary tents. They are unable to get a legal job due to lack of documents, which also keeps them from getting proper housing.
“We restored the human dignity of those people. This is what they were refused,” Krajewski said.
“I told the mayor of the city this is what the courage of the Gospel is about” – the cardinal told Crux – “we usually want to help the poor in the way we think is good for them. But they don’t need musical concerts. They need to take a shower. They need to have a bank account.”
The papal almoner said that if you do something, and if it works and really helps the poor, others see your example.
“They told me today they saw reports of opening the showers for the poor in Genoa last week – the good news is really spreading quickly and let’s hope others will follow,” he said.
Krajewski recalled what he said during the ceremony: “The pope’s name is Pontifex – the bridge builder – in this case, he is building a bridge between the invisibles and those we can see.”
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