Pope Francis ends trip to Greece and Cyprus focused on migrant rights

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Pope Francis thanked Greece for its “gracious hospitality” as he left on Monday after a historic three-day visit marked by calls for better treatment of migrants in Europe.

Before setting out, the Pope met young people in a Catholic school on the outskirts of Athens, inviting the opening.

“When the temptation to withdraw into oneself comes, seek out others,” he said.

He also spoke briefly on Monday with the leader of parliament, Konstantinos Tassoulas, and with the leader of the main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras, who thanked him for “his steadfast defense of human rights and social justice” .

During his whirlwind visit, Francis met the head of the Greek Orthodox Church and visited the Mavrovouni tent camp in Lesvos, where he called the neglect of migrants “the wreck of civilization”.

After his visit to the migration center, he celebrated Mass for some 2,000 faithful in Athens, where he urged respect for the “small and humble”.

In 2016, Francis visited the vast Moria camp on Lesvos, when the island was the main gateway for migrants heading to Europe.

He was greeted warmly by a crowd of migrants in the camp, which is home to nearly 2,200 asylum seekers.

The people then gathered in a tent to sing songs and psalms to the pontiff, who listened to them, visibly moved.

“I’m trying to help you,” Francis told a group through his interpreter.

Mavrovouni camp was hastily erected after Moria, then the largest such site in Europe, was burnt down last year.

“Grim graveyard without headstones” In his speech, Francis warned that the Mediterranean “is becoming a grim graveyard without headstones” and that “after all this time we see that little in the world has changed with regard to the issue of migration “.

The root causes “should be tackled – not the poor who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda,” he added.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 1,559 people died or went missing while attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean this year.

About 40 asylum seekers, mostly from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, took part in an Angelus prayer on Sunday in a camp tent with the Pope.

“Her visit is a blessing,” said Rosette Leo, a Congolese asylum seeker carrying a two-month-old baby as she queued for the ceremony.

However, Menal Albilal, a Syrian mother with a two-month-old baby whose asylum claim was rejected after two years on the island, said the refugees “want more than words, we need help” .

“The conditions here are not good for a baby,” she told AFP.

The Pope has long championed the cause of migrants and his visit came after he addressed a scathing rebuke to Europe which he said was “torn by nationalist selfishness”.

Before arriving in Greece, the Pope traveled to Cyprus, where authorities have announced that 50 migrants will be relocated to Italy thanks to Francis.

The 84-year-old pope himself comes from a family of Italian migrants settled in Argentina.

(AFP)

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