MORIA // Pope Francis gave Europe a concrete lesson on Saturday in how to welcome refugees by bringing 12 Syrian Muslims to Italy aboard his charter plane after an emotional visit to the Greek island of Lesbos.
According to the National Newspaper online, refugees on the overwhelmed island, which has faced the brunt of Europe’s migration crisis, fell to their knees and wept at his presence.
The Vatican said Pope Francis wanted to make a “gesture of welcome” at the end of his five-hour visit to Lesbos, where he implored Europe to respond to the refugee crisis on its shores “in a way that is worthy of our common humanity.”
The Greek island just a few miles from the Turkish coast has seen hundreds of thousands of desperate people land on its beaches and rocks in the last year, fleeing war and poverty at home.
“Today I renew my heartfelt plea for responsibility and solidarity in the face of this tragic situation,” Pope Francis said.
The pope visited Lesbos alongside the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians and the head of the Church of Greece to thank the Greek people for their welcome and highlight the plight of refugees as the European Union implements a controversial plan to deport them back to Turkey.
Many refugees wept at the pontiff’s feet as he and the two Orthodox leaders approached them at the Moria refugee detention centre, where they greeted 250 people individually. Others chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” as the religious leaders passed by.
Pope Francis bent down as one young girl knelt at his feet, sobbing uncontrollably. Clearly moved, the pope also blessed a man who wailed “Thank you, God. Thank you! Please Father, bless me!”.
A woman told the pope that her husband was in Germany but that she was stuck with her two sons in Lesbos.
The Vatican said the three Syrian families, including six children, who were taken back with the pope will be supported by the Holy See and cared for initially by Italy’s Catholic Sant’Egidio Community, which for years has been active in providing assistance to refugees in Italy. READ MORE OF THIS STORY