Refugee family swaps Syrian hell for Vatican flat

A refugee family from Damascus has swapped the hell of Syria's brutal civil war for the comfort and safety of a flat in the Vatican as guests of Pope Francis.

Vatican city: A refugee family from Damascus has swapped the hell of Syria's brutal civil war for the comfort and safety of a flat in the Vatican as guests of Pope Francis.

The family of four are the first beneficiaries of the Catholic leader's determination that the Church should take a lead in shaping Europe's response to an ongoing migration crisis partly caused by the conflict in Syria.

Few details of how the Christian family of four, a couple and two children, came to land in Italy on September 6, were released pending the outcome of the asylum request they have lodged with the Italian authorities.

But it was confirmed Friday that they have become the first of two families that Francis has vowed to find space for in the Vatican in line with his call for every one of the 120,000 Catholic parishes across Europe to take in at least one.

The family, members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, has been housed in a flat near St Peter's cathedral, a short walk from Francis's own modest boarding house accommodation and all the charms of Rome's historic centre.

Although Damascus has been spared the worst in the Syrian conflict, it must nevertheless seem to this particular family that they have been transported to another world.

Having fled a country at war and given the uncertainty over the future for Syria's Christians, the family is highly likely to be granted leave to remain in Europe.

The processing of their application - by the Italian rather than the Vatican authorities - could however take months, possibly years, unless they are made a special case. 

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