The New York Times reports: Pope Francis made an emotional visit into the heart of Europe’s migrant crisis on Saturday and took 12 Muslim refugees from Syria, including six children, with him back to Rome aboard the papal plane.
The action punctuated the pope’s pleas for sympathy to the plight of the refugees just as European attitudes are hardening against them.
Those taken to Rome were three families — two from Damascus and one from the eastern city of Deir al-Zour — whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war, the Vatican said in a statement as the pope departed the Greek island of Lesbos.
”The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees,” the statement said, adding that the Vatican would care for the three families.
The announcement capped a brief trip by the pope to Greece that again placed the plight of migrants at the center of his papacy.
“We have come to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution,” Francis said during a lunchtime visit to the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, where leaders of Eastern Orthodox Christian churches joined him.
“As people of faith, we wish to join our voices to speak out on your behalf,” Francis continued. “We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity.”
Francis’ first papal trip in 2013 was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, to call attention to the refugees who were arriving there from Libya — or drowning before they reached shore. During his February visit to Mexico, Francis prayed beneath a large cross erected in Ciudad Juárez, just footsteps from the Mexican border with the United States, and then celebrated Mass nearby, where he spoke about immigrants. [Continue reading…]