Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pope Francis departs from Lesbos with 12 refugees on board. Speaking earlier today Pope Francis said "we are all migrants".

The plane carrying Pope Francis to Rome has departed from the Greek island of Lesbos with 12 Syrian refugees on board at his invitation.

The three families boarded the papal flight after the Pope's five-hour visit of solidarity to the migrants and other residents on the Greek island which is at the centre of Europe's most serious migrant crisis in living memory.

A statement issued by the Vatican said the Pope wanted to make a gesture of welcome to refugees by bringing on his plane to Rome six adults and the same number of children.

The statement added that all three families are Muslim, two are from Damascus and one from Deir Azzor (an area occupied by the so-called Islamic State group.)

Speaking earlier today Pope Francis said "we are all migrants".

"May we... recognise that together, as one human family, we are all migrants," the Pope said in a prayer in memory to the hundreds of people of all ages who died in the Aegean.

Pope Francis told refugees trapped on the island 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."

There were emotional scenes earlier this morning 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')...



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