August 24 is a day of celebration in the city of Lecce, located in the south of Puglia, in the center of the “heel” of the Italian “boot”, eleven kilometers from the Adriatic coast and twenty-three from the Ionian Sea. Sant’Oronzo, protector of this city of around 100,000 inhabitants which traditionally wants to be tolerant and welcoming, is celebrated with joy … but this year 2020 is special with the pandemic linked to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The Archbishop takes advantage of this unprecedented situation to remind everyone that everyone is in the same boat: “As we shared the same boat with the poorest through the storm, we realized that we too were destitute and needed help, says Bishop Michele Seccia in his homily in front of women and men born here or elsewhere. On board this boat are also our migrant brothers by our side. “

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Over two hundred families open their homes for lunch

Migrants from Syria, Guinea, Albania … have become inhabitants of Lecce thanks to the support of people who have opened their doors to them. The welcome here is a political will. It is that of the left mayor of the municipality. “We must reaffirm this spirit of solidarity, the principle of proximity to those who land on our coasts. And above all, not to use the pandemic as an alibi to build walls and barriers”, says the aedile Carlo Salvemini to the magazine “Nous les Européens” (replay). Deserted today by tourists because of the health crisis, Lecce deserves to be known for its hospitality …

The local association Arci Lecce (in English), for example, allows migrants to share meals in the homes of more than two hundred volunteer families. Two Nigerian mothers, who have known fear at sea, are received that day with their children at the homestay. They had almost forgotten the warmth of a fireplace. Their host, Francesca Sacco, explains her approach: “At school, my daughters are already experiencing multicultural integration. I want this to be the case at home too, and for them to learn openness to others.” “Our parents themselves had to emigrate and they taught us the meaning of welcoming whatever the situation. It is our turn to accept others”, says Carlo Leo, also a member of the association.

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