Thursday, May 26

Pope asks in Lesbos refugee camp to stop “the shipwreck of civilization”

Correspondent in the Vatican



Staggering forward on a gravel road, Pope Francis this Sunday dedicated the first twenty minutes in the Lesbos Island Refugee Camp to shake the hands of hundreds of people forced to flee their countries and who have risked their lives crossing the mountains of Asia and the waters of the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Advancing with difficulty, Francisco has caressed hundreds of children in the arms of their parents, while smiling at all. Many greeted him as best they could: “Thank you!” “Welcome!” Salaam!

A Congolese was more direct, almost heartbreaking, pleading: “Aidez moi!” Is the first important international personality who comes to visit them, and this time – his second visit to Lesbos – he has brought with him the President of the Republic, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou.

Most of the 2,300 people taken in are young families with small children. Most have had to flee from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Somalia, but there were also Asian faces from Myanmar and Africans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

They have been waiting – for months – to receive refugee status, with the burden of forced confinement in the field and the fear to be returned to Turkey in case of rejection. Hope comes from knowing that most of your predecessors have received the statute. Last September was extraordinarily good as 4,200 people were welcomed in various states of the European Union.

After a few brief words from the President of the Republic, several refugees and people who help them have welcomed the Pope.

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Christian, who has fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has told him that he is 30 years old and is the father of three children, two of whom accompany him in the Lesbos refugee camp, “but the third and my wife have not had the lucky to get to Greece. Until today I have no news of them.

Catholic minority

Len, an islander who is part of the Catholic minority and helps as a volunteer, has assured that, paradoxically, “the refugees have enriched our faith with their joy.” It was confirmed, shortly after, by the catchy rhythmic song of a group of African refugee women.

Francis, who already visited refugees from Lesbos in 2016, has told them that “I am here again to meet you, to see your faces, to look them in the eye: eyes that have seen violence and poverty, eyes streaked with too many tears.

Addressing the whole world, the Pope has pointed out that, in the three major global challenges of the moment, there is one semi-abandoned by the international community.

According to Francisco, “even amid delays and uncertainties, vaccination is advancing on a planetary level. It also seems that something is moving in the fight against climate change. But everything seems terribly opaque when it comes to migrations. ‘

In line with his speech on Saturday in Athens on “the decline of democracy”, the Pope has warned that “the future will only be prosperous if it is reconciled with the weakest.” Quite simply, “because when the poor are rejected, peace is rejected. Closures and nationalisms – history teaches us – lead to disastrous consequences ».

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Looking at the fugitives from countries at war, the Holy Father told them: «Sisters, brothers, your faces, your eyes ask us not to look elsewhere, not to deny the humanity that unites us, that let’s make their stories our own and let’s not forget their dramas.

Francis prayed “to man, to every man: let us overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference that kills, the cynical disinterest that, wearing silk gloves, condemns to death those who are on the margins.”

Pointing to the causes of this cruelty, the Pope has invited “to confront from its roots the dominant thought, which revolves around one’s own self, one’s own personal and national egoisms, which become the measure and criterion of everything ».

Islanders’ generosity

After thanking the international aid and that of Greece, as well as the generosity of the islanders, Francis pointed directly to the selfish: “We must bitterly admit that this country, like others, is currently going through a difficult situation, and that in Europe there are still people who persist in treating the problem as a matter that does not concern them.

Faced with a world experiencing the greatest refugee crisis in history, and faced with political leaders who take advantage of it for their personal advantage, the Pope has once again quoted Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, in his speech accepting the Nobel Prize: « When human lives are in danger, when human dignity is in danger, national borders become irrelevant.

Referring to the leaders who spread xenophobia, Francisco has said that “it is easy to drag public opinion, fostering fear of the other.” And he has asked himself: «Why, on the other hand, is not spoken of the forgotten wars, and often generously funded? Or of the hidden maneuvers to traffic arms and make their trade proliferate? ».

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According to the Holy Father, “we must tackling remote causes, not to the poor people who pay the consequences, being also used as political propaganda ».


To get to the bottom of the problem, “you can’t just solve emergencies. Concerted action is needed. It is necessary to approach historical changes with an open mind.

And, furthermore, do it soon, because the balance of the wait is terrible: “The Mediterranean, which for millennia has united diverse peoples and distant lands, is turning into a cold cemetery without tombstones.” So much so that it “looks like a mirror of death.”

That is why he has insisted with increasing force: “Let us not let the ‘Mare nostrum’ turn into a bleak ‘Mare mortuum’! I beg you. Let’s stop this shipwreck of civilization! ‘

After the meeting, the Pope has traveled prefabricated pavilions and shops to visit some families in their ‘houses’. The day was sunny, but December nights are already very cold. The tents are not heated, and are facing the sea. The Aegean wind passes through them, entering through any gap.

The Holy Father’s program includes, in the afternoon, a mass at the Megaron Concert Hall, and a second night at the Apostolic Nunciature in Athens to be able to celebrate, first thing in the morning, a meeting with the young people before beginning the return to Rome.

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