Pope Francis' visit to Lesbos in 2016: What I saw would move you to tears

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In 2015, more than one million refugees, many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, disembarked on the coasts of Europe, looking for shelter.

The epicenter of the crisis was Lesbos, where volunteers couldn't keep up with all the shipwrecks.

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“They were already dying, there were corpses, there were children floating... it was horrific. We did not know where to start and there were only four lifeguards with two jet skis. When you see what we did ourselves, with our hands and our own resources...What could have been done if the administration had helped at all?”

The crisis created strong tension among European governments. They settled on a controversial agreement so Turkey would prevent people from crossing into Europe. This stemmed the flow of arrivals.

In the midst of the debate, Pope Francis decided to visit Lesbos to see the situation with his own eyes. The trip took place on April 16, 2016.

“It is a sad journey. We are going to see the greatest humanitarian tragedy after World War II.”

Pope Francis got off the plane a little after 10 in the morning, and less than an hour later, he was in the refugee camp of Moria with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, Ieronymos. It was a very ecumenical visit.

At the camp, they were met with heart-breaking scenes like this one.

This one...

And this one...

Holy father, bless me, please, I'm a Christian. Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah. Jesus thank you, thank God.

The Pope asked that the international community not look the other way in front of such a dire situation.

'We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity.'

Pope Francis, with the other Christian leaders, signed a declaration calling governments to use “all the means necessary to ensure that people and communities, including Christians, can stay in their homeland and enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security.”

Then they had lunch with a number of refugees and honored those who drowned while trying to reach Europe.

Before leaving Greece, the Pope surprised the world. He took various refugee families back to Italy with him.

On the flight back to Rome, he showed how much the trip had affected him.

'Fear is something I totally understand. But after what I saw—and I'll switch topics—but I wanted to say it today... What you yourselves saw, in that refugee camp... It moves you to tears. What have these children seen… Look at this. They have seen a little boy drown. This is something children carry in their hearts, Really, today was enough to move you to tears. To move you to tears. I invite arms traffickers to spend a day in that refugee camp. I think it would do them good.'

On April 16, Pope Francis concluded one of the shortest but most emotionally difficult trips of his pontificate.




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