Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to a Jesuit-run refugee center in Rome for its continued care for migrants and refugees fleeing war, persecution and hunger.

In the letter dated May 23, the pope said the Centro Astalli is an example that will help "inspire in society a renewed commitment for an authentic culture of welcome and solidarity."

"I wish to express my sincere appreciation to you, the employees and volunteers for the courage with which you confront the challenge of migration, especially in this delicate time for the right to asylum, for the thousands of people who flee from war, from persecution and from serious humanitarian crises," he said in the letter addressed to Jesuit Father Camillo Ripamonti, the center's director.

The Centro Astalli, which is part of the Jesuit Refugee Service, was founded by Father Pedro Arrupe, superior of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983.

The pope's letter was sent after the center published its 2020 Annual Report detailing its work in Rome and other locations throughout Italy in 2019.

According to its report, the center assisted an estimated 20,000 migrants, 11,000 of whom were helped at its Rome location. The center also distributed 56,475 meals throughout the year.

In his letter, Pope Francis also addressed the refugees welcomed by the center and said that he was "spiritually close to all with prayer and affection, and I encourage you to have faith and hope in a world of peace, justice and brotherhood among peoples."

"I renew my encouragement to the Centro Astalli and all who collaborate with it in the wise approach to the complex phenomenon of migration, in supporting adequate support interventions and giving witness to those human and Christian values that are at the foundation of European civilization," he said.