Athens, April 16 (IANS) Pope Francis on Saturday arrived in Lesbos, the island in Greece that has received hundreds of thousands of refugees in the past two years.
The Pope was welcomed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Greek Reporter daily reported.
The Chief of the Roman Catholic Church landed at the Mytilene airport at 10.28 a.m.
“Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such,” Pope Francis tweeted.
He is scheduled to visit the Moria refugee reception centre where the three church leaders and Tsipras will have lunch along with the refugees.
Pope Francis will give a speech on the refugee crisis and the three church leaders will honour the refugees who drowned in the Aegean during the perilous journey from the Turkish coast. The pontiff is scheduled to fly back to Rome at 3 p.m.
Greek government sources revealed that Pope Francis has invited ten refugees (eight Syrians and two Afghans) to return with him to the Vatican.
According to a press release issued by the Vatican, the aim of the pontiff’s visit to Lesbos is to support the refugees and to draw the world’s attention to the European migration crisis.
The last Papal visit to Greece was 15 years ago.
Hours before Francis arrived, the European border patrol agency Frontex on Friday intercepted a dinghy carrying 41 Syrians and Iraqis off the coast of Lesbos.
The refugees were detained and brought to shore in the main port of Mytilene.