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IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Cindy WoodenMYTILENE, Greece (CNS) -- Although their speeches werepunctuated with policy appeals, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders focused theirvisit to the island of Lesbos on the faces, stories and drawings of refugees.Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew ofConstantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece spent moretime April 16 greeting the refugees individually than they did giving speeches.The children received a pat on the head and the men ahandshake. In respect for the Muslim faith of most of the women, the leadersput their hands over their hearts and bowed in greeting them. The gratitude ofthose men, women and children was clear in their smiles, tears and sobbingpleas for help.An Iraqi woman asked for the assistance of the pope andpatriarch in finding medical care for her daughter with bone cancer. Anotherwoman kept saying, in English, "We are very tired here." A man toldthe pope that he had a brother and siste...
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2016 / 08:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis had simple message for the thousands of refugees now staying on the Greek island of Lesbos: you are not forgotten.“I have wanted to be with you today. I want to tell you that you are not alone,” Pope Francis told some 3,000 refugees during his April 16 visit. “In these weeks and months, you have endured much suffering in your search for a better life,” he said. He explained that he and the other religious leaders present came not just “to be with you and to hear your stories,” but also to “call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution.”Pope Francis praised the Greek people for the help they have given in spite of their own economic difficulties. At the same time, he said, “so much more needs to be done.”He said “this is the message I want to leave with you today: do not lose hope!” He add...
Vatican City, Apr 16, 2016 / 06:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos, a primary entry point for refugees seeking passage into Europe, Pope Francis decided to bring 12 of them on his plane back to the Vatican as an act of welcome and solidarity.“The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees,” an April 16 communique from the Vatican read.Coming from Syria, all of the families are Muslim and number 12 people in total, including six children. Two of the families are from Damascus, and one is from Deir Azzor, which is now territory occupied ISIS. Their homes had been bombed.According to the AFP news agency, an official of Greece's state refugee coordination agency said the families were all staying in the open camp of Kara Tepe on Lesbos, and were selected through a drawing.The initiative was brought to fruition through negotiations between the Vatican Sec...
Vatican City, Apr 15, 2016 / 01:51 pm (CNA).- *Updated April 16, 2016 at 8 am EST with information on Bernie Sanders' meeting with Pope Francis Saturday morning.Attending an event hosted by a Vatican academy, U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) provided a long reflection on Catholic social teaching, as he saw it.Sanders spoke Friday at a conference celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s “Centesimus Annus.” The senator commented:“With the fall of Communism, Pope John Paul II gave a clarion call for human freedom in its truest sense: freedom that defends the dignity of every person and that is always oriented towards the common good.”The April 15-16 conference was sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which fosters dialogue between scientists, politicians and various experts.At the start of the gathering, Archbishop Sanchez Sorondo, the academy’s chancellor, read a lett...
(Vatican Radio) A senior official of Caritas Internationalis said the Pope’s 6-hour visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on Saturday brought to the fore the urgency of tackling the refugee crisis which is a huge moral issue for both the European Union and the world.  Patrick Nicholson, Head of Communications at Caritas Internationalis, said the papal trip and its message also underlined that we can no longer treat people like commodities to be traded between countries. Nicholson who was in Lesbos during the Pope’s visit spoke to Susy Hodges.Listen to the interview with Patrick Nicholson of Caritas Internationalis:  “Shames us all”Nicholson said the papal trip shone the spotlight on the refugee crisis and underlined that the international community really needs to address this issue.  He said Pope Francis’ trip to Lesbos shone the spotlight on some of the more troubling aspects of the recent deal between the EU and Turkey that calls for ...
(Vatican Radio) Vatican Weekend for April 16, 2016 offers a special focus on the visit of Pope Francis to Lesbos on Saturday. This is followed by a report on his weekly general audience with pilgrims from across the world and a feature centred around  Pius XII and Shakespeare.A programme presented and produced by Veroncia Scarisbrick:  
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis returned to Rome on Saturday with 12 Syrian refugees whom he took back with him on the plane at the end of his 6-hour visit to Lesbos. Upon arrival, he made his customary visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, praying for a short while before the Marian icon Salus populi Romani.The Greek island of Lesbos is on the frontline in receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and poverty and during his visit the Pope implored Europe to treat refugees with dignity.The Pope was accompanied on his trip to Lesbos by the Orthodox leader, the Ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Ieronymos II. During their visit, the three spiritual leaders signed a joint declaration calling on the international community to make the protection of human lives a priority and to extend temporary asylum to those in need. Earlier they toured the Moria refugee camp where many ...
(Vatican Radio)  As per tradition, Pope Francis sent telegrams to the heads of state of the countries his plane flew over on Saturday during his return trip to Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos.The telegrams to the European countries the Pope has flown over are presented here in their original languages:GreeceHIS EXCELLENCY PROKOPIS PAVLOPOULOSPRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLICATHENSAS I DEPART GREECE I WISH TO RENEW MY GRATITUDE TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AND THE GOVERNMENT FOR YOUR GENEROUS ASSISTANCE DURING MY VISIT.  WITH THE ASSURANCE OF MY PRAYERS, I INVOKE UPON THE NATION AND ALL ITS PEOPLE ALMIGHTY GOD’S BLESSINGS OF HARMONY AND PROSPERITY.FRANCISCUS PP.AlbaniaHis Excellency Bujar NishaniPresident of the Republic of AlbaniaTiranëI RENEW MY CORDIAL GREETINGS TO YOUR EXCELLENCY AS I FLY OVER THE COUNTRY ON MY WAY FROM GREECE TO THE VATICAN.  WITH THE ASSURANCE OF MY CONTINUED PRAYERS FOR ALL THE ALBANIAN PEOPLE, I INVOKE THE DIVINE BLESSINGS OF PEAC...
(Vatican Radio) “You are not alone”. That was Pope Francis’ message to migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos where up to half a million asylum seekers have arrived over the past year and a half.His brief visit to the island, alongside Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Orthodox Archbishop Hieronymus of Athens, aimed to draw international attention to the plight of all those fleeing across the Mediterranean sea to escape conflict and persecution in their home countries.Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:  This was Pope Francis’ 13th journey outside Italy, but as he told journalists on the short plane trip over from Rome to Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, this visit was different. It was a visit, he said, marked by sadness for the suffering of so many people caught up in the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.As he did during his first pastoral journey to the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2013, the Pope was able to ...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday offered a concrete and powerful gesture of solidarity to refugees and prayers to the victims of migration before wrapping up his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos.The decision to offer shelter and care to refugee families who travelled back to Rome with him aboard the papal plane was announced at the end of an intense visit to Lesbos which aimed to show support and solidarity to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are currently facing detention, razor fences, closed borders and rejection in Europe as they flee violence and persecution.A 6-hour visit, marked by many poignant and moving moments, included  prayers and a tribute to those who have drowned during a ceremony at the Lesbos port of Mytilene.According to the International Organization for Migration, 366 people have died crossing the water from Turkey to Greece since the beginning of this year alone. There are many children and infants amongst the victims.Listen to the re...
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