Several priests in the Diocese of Armagh have pledged to offer accommodation in their parishes to house Ukrainian refugees.
Fr Paul Byrne is one of a growing number of priests in the diocese who have registered with the Irish Red Cross to offer his spare room in the Parochial House in Termonfeckin, Co Louth.
The diocese has some 120 priests across 61 parishes who have been asked by Archbishop Eamon Martin to consider offering any spare rooms or accommodation for use by refugees.
Fr Paul is a member of the Diocesan Council of Priests who met last Thursday to discuss the situation and hear reports from the National Bishop’s Council which confirmed that all bishops had offered to take the lead on offering their homes to help refugees.
“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,” he said.
“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."
Fr Paul said the Catholic Church is working with the Government and all relevant stakeholders on protocols in placing people in appropriate accommodation.
“We can’t ask people in the parish to welcome refugees into their own homes if we are not prepared to do the same,” he said.
He said there may be vacant properties in the parish but they may not be deemed suitable for use as many are old and in need of repair or may only have one bathroom. “Other properties may be far removed from public transport which would make refugees more isolated. All these factors will be considered in deciding on placements.”
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.
“People may have vacant properties that could be used for this purpose. We have been informed by Government services that this will be a very short term measure.
“The archbishop has taken a lead in offering accommodation in his own house and is inviting priests and people of the diocese to be generous in the same regard
“Fr Paul and several priests and people in the diocese have already registered on the Red Cross website.”