Source: The Guardian
By Helena Smith
Pope Francis has taken a dozen highly vulnerable refugees who faced deportation from the Greek island of Lesbos back to Rome, offering them refuge in a rebuke to the EU’s policy of sending migrants and refugees back to Turkey.
The leader of the Roman Catholic church made the unprecedented intervention on Saturday during a trip to the island to highlight the refugee crisis unfolding across the continent.
The pontiff spent five hours on Lesbos with Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Athens and Greece, meeting refugees and holding a service to bless those who have died trying to reach Europe.
Fuelling belief that the Catholic church is at odds with the EU’s stance on the crisis, Pope Francis took 12 refugees back to the Vatican. An official confirmed all those taken from the camp were Syrian Muslims, six of them minors who arrived Lesbos before the deportation dealcame into effect.
A spokesman for the Holy See said: “The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children.
“Two families come from Damascus, and one from Deir Azzor (in the area occupied by Isis). Their homes had been bombed. The Vatican will take responsibility for bringing in and maintaining the three families. The initial hospitality will be taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio.”
The pontiff spent the morning meeting hundreds of migrants and refugees in a notorious detention centre on the island. Men and women held in the camp wept as he toured the site.
The pope was met at Mytilene’s airport by the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, at the start of his biggest effort yet to highlight the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe.
Categories: Europe, Italy, Pope Francis, refugees, The Muslim Times, Turkey
a small but positive step!