Pope rescues 12 Syrian refugees from Greek island

Pope Francis has rescued 12 Syrian refugees from the Greek Island of Lesbos, which he visited to highlight the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Three refugee families, including six children, boarded the Pope’s plane for Rome at the end of his short visit on April 16.

A Vatican spokesman said: “The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees.”

The three Muslim families had arrived on Lesbos before the new European Union deal with Turkey was implemented on March 20.

It is understood that paperwork for the 12 people to go to Rome was arranged in advance.

On his flight back from Lesbos, the Pope said the decision to bring the families to Rome was the fruit of an inspiration one of his collaborators had a week ago.

Two Christian families originally had been on the Vatican’s list, too, he said, but their papers were not ready in time.

Two of the families which went to Rome are from Damascus, while the third is from the ISIS stronghold of Deir el-Zour in the north of the country.

Their homes had been bombed.

The Vatican will take responsibility for supporting the families.

But the Catholic Sant’Egidio community will take care of getting them settled initially.

On Lesbos, the Pope urged the European Union to change its policy towards the migrants.

He said: ‘”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.”

While on Lesbos, Pope Francis blasted people smugglers and arms traffickers whom he blamed for worsening the current refugee crisis in Europe.

The Pontiff was greeted at the camp by a large group of children, some of whom arrived in Greece without their parents.

Addressing the refugees, he said: “You are not alone. Do not lose hope.”

Children offered Francis drawings and the Pope praised one little girl for her artwork, saying “Bravo. Bravo.”

Then as he handed it off to his staff he stressed: “Don’t fold it. I want it on my desk.”

Pope Francis was accompanied on his visit by Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos II.


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