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Pope's trip to Lesbos 'humanitarian' not political, says Vatican spokesman

15 April 2016 | by Catholic News Service

The Pope is due to meet thousands of refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe

The Pope's trip to Lesbos tomorrow is a "humanitarian and ecumenical gesture", not a political one, the Vatican spokesman said.

Pope Francis is to join Orthodox leaders Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece, in personally meeting with hundreds of refugees and migrants stranded in Greece.

Releasing the detailed schedule for the Pope's trip to Lesbos, Greece, on 16 April, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the Pope and the Orthodox leaders wanted to draw attention to "a situation in which many people are suffering" and where a "solution worthy of the human person" still must be found.

The three are scheduled to visit the Moria refugee camp, which the European Union has designated as a "hotspot" for registering those seeking asylum in Europe. It's where those whose applications are denied are sent back to Turkey, which was their last stop before entering Greece and, therefore, EU territory.

Father Lombardi said the religious leaders would be welcomed to the camp by 150 children, including orphans and unaccompanied minors. They were also scheduled to greet personally 250 of the roughly 2,500 asylum-seekers currently at Moria.

The visit of the three religious leaders is to culminate with a prayer service on the waterfront in memory of those who have drowned trying to cross to Europe. According to the International Organisation for Migration, more than 150,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Greece between 1 Jan and 7 April; more than half of them landed on Lesbos. In the same period, the IOM said 366 people died attempting to cross the Aegean Sea to the island.

Here is the complete schedule released by the Vatican today. All times are local.

 

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