Pope Francis on Saturday told refugees trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos that they are “not alone” in their plight, and called on the world to respond with “common humanity” to the migrant crisis.
“You are not alone... do not lose hope,” the pope said as he visited Lesbos with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, calling on the world to respond to the tragedy “in a way worthy of our common humanity”.
The three religious leaders then signed a joint declaration that calls on the international community to “respond with courage in facing this massive humanitarian crisis and its underlying causes through diplomatic, political and charitable initiatives.”
The pope, who is next scheduled to say a prayer at Lesbos harbour for the hundreds of people of all ages who have died in the Aegean trying to reach Europe, expressed a desire to take to the Vatican some refugees after his five-hour visit, according to an official from Greece’s state refugee coordination agency. The Vatican later confirmed that 12 Syrian refugees, all of them Muslim, are travelling with the pope back to Italy from Greece, AP reported.
“We are also going to a cemetery, the sea. So many people never arrived,” he said before his arrival on Saturday.
There were emotional scenes as the pope visited the migrant facility of Moria, greeting unaccompanied minors, women and small children who gave him over a dozen drawings.
One man broke into tears as he knelt at the pope’s feet, requesting his blessing. Another woman got around security to approach the pontiff, also breaking down in tears as he paused to listen to her.
Other migrants detained at Moria, unable to reach the pope, shouted and whistled.
Some held handmade signs that read ‘We want freedom’, ‘Let my people go’ and ‘Papa cherche a nous sauver’ (‘Pope, try to save us’).
The pontiff’s landmark visit comes amid controversy over a deal last month to end Europe’s refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey.