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Best wishes to Benedict XVI on his eighty-ninth birthday

· Pope Francis speaks during his flight to the island of Lesbos ·

“We are on our way to encounter the largest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War.” Pope Francis said this in a meeting with journalists on his flight to Lesbos. “It is a visit”, he explained, “that is a bit different than others. On apostolic visits we go to do many things: to see people, to speak... there is also joy in that encounter. This is a journey marked by sadness, and this is important. It is a sad visit.”

“Let us go – and we will see it – in so many people who suffer, who do not know where to go, who have had to flee”, the Pope continued, adding: “We will also go to a cemetery: the sea. So many people have drowned there.”

“I say this”, Pope Francis said, “not to embitter, not for bitterness, but that your work today in the media might convey the state of mind with which I make this trip.”

Before concluding, the Pope took the microphone again to mention “that today is Pope Benedict XVI's eighty-ninth birthday”, and he requested “a prayer for him.” A congratulatory message sent during the flight reads: “The Holy Father Pope Francis, along with all those who accompany him on his visit to Lesbos – his retinue and journalists –, sends affectionate and cordial greetings to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the occasion of his 89th birthday, asking the Lord to continue to bless his precious service of closeness and prayer for the entire Church.”

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