Pope Francis is to take 12 Syrian refugees – including six children – back to the Vatican following a visit to the Moria migrant and refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. The Holy See’s press office confirmed the planned transfer of the three families.
During his trip, he echoed the calls of European leaders to unite to tackle the cause of the “dramatic” migrant situation, rather than simply “responding to emergencies as they arise.”
“We need to encourage political efforts that are broader in scope and multilateral. It is necessary, above all, to build peace where war has brought destruction and death, and to stop this scourge from spreading.
“To do this, resolute efforts must be made to counter the arms trade and arms trafficking, and the often hidden machinations associated with them; those who carry out acts of hatred and violence must be denied all means of support.”
People with faces, names, individual stories
He joined Turkey’s Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece on the Aegean island, which is currently sheltering thousands of extra people, many of whom have fled conflict in their home nations.
The Pontiff recognised the legitimacy of Europe’s concerns about the wave of people arriving, but added:
“We must never forget, however, that migrants, rather than simply being a statistic, are first of all people who have faces, names and individual stories. Europe is the homeland of human rights, and whoever sets foot on European soil ought to sense this, and thus become more aware of the duty to respect and defend those rights.”
While the Vatican insists the trip was purely humanitarian and religious, rather than political, Francis did, once again, express hope that the first World Humanitarian Summit, which is due to take place in Istanbul in May, “will prove productive.”