A safe home
· Pope Francis returns from Lesvos with 12 Syrian refugees to be hosted in Italy ·
Pope Francis returned from Lesvos — which he visited on Saturday morning, 16 April, together with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos — and he brought with him a group of refugees: three families that escaped the war in Syria and found refuge in the field of Kara Tepe. The group consists of 12 people, including two teenagers and four children, who landed on the Greek island before the recent agreement between Turkey and the European Union
An unprecedented gesture which captures the spirit of the Pope's brief but extremely intense visit. “I have come here”, the Pope told hundreds of men, women and children in the Moria Refugee camp, “simply to be with you and to hear your stories”. “We have come to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution”, he added, underlining what he had called that morning “the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War”. On board the flight with journalists, Francis also remembered Benedict XVI's 89th birthday.
The Pope remained a long time with the refugees in Moria; he listened to their horrific stories, dried tears and shared words of comfort. “You are not alone”, he assured them, praising the generous response of the people of Greece and expressing his hope that “the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity”.
His wish became a “heartfelt plea for responsibility and solidarity” during his meeting with the authorities and the Catholic community, held in the early afternoon at the port of Mytilene, after Francis signed a joint declaration with Bartholomew and Ieronymos and ate lunch with eight refugees of the camp. “Europe is the homeland of human rights, and whoever sets foot on European soil ought to sense this”, the Pope warned, recognizing also that “the worries expressed by institutions and people are understandable and legitimate”. He, however, invited us never to forget “that migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all persons who have faces, names and individual stories”. We must not recoil “from the idea of putting up walls to make us feel safer” because “barriers create divisions instead of promoting the true progress of peoples”. Before leaving the island, the Pope and the Orthodox Archbishop recited a prayer for all the victims of immigration and they left three laurel wreaths.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2019
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