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greek visit

The Pope has taken in three refugee families

“The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees,” the Vatican said.

Updated 8pm 

Greece Pope Migrants Petros Giannakouris Petros Giannakouris

TWELVE SYRIAN REFUGEES have accompanied Pope Francis on his return flight to Rome after his visit to the Greek island of Lesbos today and will be housed in the Vatican, the Holy See said.

“The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, twelve people in all, including six children,” a Vatican statement said.

The families, all Muslims, had been in Lesbos since before the March 20 EU-Turkey deal for returning migrants denied asylum, it said.

Greece Pope Migrants Associated Press Associated Press

The visit 

Declaring “we are all migrants,” the pope brought a message of hope to thousands of people facing expulsion from Greece during his visit.

In an emotional trip that saw people kneeling in tears at his feet, the pontiff told exiles they were “not alone” and pleaded for the world to show “common humanity” following a hardening of the EU’s stance on migrants.

Greece Pope Migrants Petros Giannakouris Petros Giannakouris

“You are not alone… do not lose hope,” the pope, who was accompanied by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, told migrants at the Moria registration centre, where around 3,000 people are being held.

The vast majority have requested asylum but will likely be deported under a controversial agreement reached last month to tackle the refugee crisis by sending all irregular migrants who land in Greece back to Turkey.

First published 11.15am 

© AFP, 2016

Read: Police fire tear gas at migrants leaving 260+ injured in border clash

Also: Pope Francis uses Easter message to hit out at the “rejection” of migrants

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