Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesvos on April 16. He was greeted by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios I, and Ieronymos, the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece. According to Ekathimerini, this visit was symbolic, as it came a few after days after the implementation of an agreement between the EU and Turkey involving the return of refugees who had previously entered Greek islands to Turkey.
The three religious leaders called for “a broader international consensus to eliminate unsafe routes and develop safe resettlement procedures” while also greeting and shaking hands with hundreds of refugees in the Moria camp. Protothema reported that Pope Francis was offered drawings from refugee children, which he accepted, having been moved by their action.
The religious leaders then had lunch with eight refugees from the Kara-Tepe camp and listened to their concerns and problems. The Pope lauded the effort of the authorities and inhabitants of Lesvos, who “once again gave an example of humanitarianism.”
The Financial Times also stated that the Pope took three families of Syrian refugees back to the Vatican. The Vatican said that their housing will be provided by the Saint Egidio Community, a charity group. The three religious leaders sent a strong message to the global community, stressing the importance of quickly finding a viable solution to the refugee crisis.
Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi told the Financial Times that the Pope’s visit was “humanitarian and ecumenical” and was not intended to disseminate a political message.