After his trip to Lampedusa, Pope Francis returns to the heart of the Mediterranean to go and meet the men, women and children who have left the Middle East and are seeking to reach Europe via Greece. The Bishop of Rome’s flash visit by plane to the Greek island of Lesbos on Friday 15 April has been organised at lightening speed. In recent months, the island has become the entry point for thousands of refugees who have been forced to follow this route as they seek to escape a Middle East that is rife with war and sectarian conflict. The news was announced today by the Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Upon his arrival on the island of Lesbos, the Pope will be received by the Archbishop of Athems, Ieronymos II, as well as by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos and the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras.
The papal visit is one of the “monthly trips” to places of suffering, which Pope Francis decided to embark on once a month for the duration of the Holy Year of Mercy. Naturally, this visit is taking place in the context of the migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean, which sees scores of people trying to cross the Mare Nostrum to get to Europe. After years of discussions over its Christian roots, Europe is erecting walls and wire fences to stop them from entering and is sending them back to Turkey, paying Erdo?an the price it takes to clear its own guilty conscience.
At the end of the Angelus prayer pronounced on 28 February this year, Pope Francis prayed for “the dramatic situation of refugees who flee from wars and other inhuman situations,” recalling “in particular, Greece and other countries that are at the forefront” and “are generously helping them, which requires the cooperation of all nations. A collective response,” the Successor of Peter added, “can be effective and equitably distribute the burden. For this, it’s necessary to work toward negotiations decisively and unreservedly”.