Pope told reporters why he brought three Muslim families back to Vatican
Pope Francis’ decision to bring twelve Syrian refugees back to Rome with him after his trip to Lesbos last weekend was “an inspiration of the Holy Spirit”, he said.
The Pope visited the Greek island along with Orthodox leaders Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece. He said the visit was intended to be a “humanitarian and ecumenical gesture”.
Lesbos has hosted hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing war and poverty since the start of 2015.
Pope Francis brought three families – twelve people in all, including six children – with him back to Rome where they will be housed in the Vatican. There are already eight refugees living in the Vatican.
All the refugees he brought back are Muslim, two Christian families had originally been on the Vatican’s list but their papers were not ready in time.
The Pope told reporters his visit to Lesbos should not be interpreted as criticism of the controversial deal in which the EU will pay Turkey to take migrants who enter EU territories illegally.
“What I saw today and what you saw in that refugee camp – it makes you weep. Look what I brought to show you,” he told reporters as he held up drawings given to him in the camp. “Look at this, this one saw a child drown”. Really, today is a day to weep,” he said.
“It’s a global problem,” he said.
The Pope also told reporters he was saddened by the way news media had focused on his recent “softening” of attitudes to divorced Catholics. He said it distorted what the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of Bishops were actually about.
“Since I’m not a saint, this annoyed me and then saddened me. Don’t they understand that the family throughout the world is in crisis? The family is the foundation of society,” and it was coming under pressure from “the big problems” of young people’s reluctance to marry, low European birth rates, unemployment, lack of job security and poverty.