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From NBC News:
In what Francis himself called Saturday a “last minute decision,” the Essas joined two other Syrian families on the pope’s flight home to start new lives in Rome. The families were chosen not because they were Muslim, but simply because their papers were in order, the pope told reporters on his plane Saturday. “This initiative is purely humanitarian,” he said. “[When] I heard the pope chose us to come to Rome, I thought it was incredible,” said Suhila, a tailor, who joined the pope with her husband, Ramy, a teacher, and their three children. “He saved our lives,” said Suhila, whose last name hasn’t been made public. “To me, he is now like an angel, a new father who saves the lives of his children.” Suhila and her family fled Deir al-Zour, a Syrian city near the Iraqi border that has been attacked by ISIS. They arrived in Greece in February via Turkey. “I spoke to him, but I don’t even remember what I told him,” Suhila said, speaking through an interpreter. “I was overwhelmed with emotions. No Muslim leader has done what he has done.” n interviews Sunday with NBC News, the three families, all of them Muslim, expressed a common sentiment: that the pope’s passion supersedes his religious doctrine. “I still don’t believe we are here now,” said Osama, who fled the Damascus suburb of Zamalka with his wife and two children. “He is the father of peace in the world, and peace has no religion.” Nour Essa said Francis was “more important than any Muslim religious man, because what the pope did with us has never been done by an Arabic leader or by a Muslim religious man.” Francis, she said, “is a real human being. …He’s not like the others.”
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Photo: Getty Images/AFP