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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis on flight to Rome asks for more coordination to help refugees

On the return flight from Athens, Pope Francis urged all countries to coordinate the welcoming and integration of refugees fleeing from war and violence.

"Each government must clearly say, “I can receive this many.” Because only heads of state can say how many they can receive. It is their right. This is true. But migrants should be welcomed, accompanied, promoted and integrated."

The Pope harshly criticized how migrants are sent back to Libya, where they end up in the hands of human traffickers.

"We have videos of what happens in those places where migrants who are sent back end up. Just like we cannot receive them and then abandon them, we must accompany them, promote them and integrate them. If I return a migrant, I must accompany, promote and integrate him in his country. Not leave him on the Libyan coast. That is cruelty."

Pope Francis asked Europe to respect the diversity of its countries and to be wary of ideological colonization. He lamented a past campaign launched by the European Commission, which invited members not to mention Christmas so as to not offend non-Christians.

"It is an anachronism. Throughout history, many dictatorships have tried to do this. Think of Napoleon, since then. Think of the Nazi dictatorship, the communist one. It's a trend... It's watered down secularism. Distilled water. The EU must restore the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonization."

The trip was a step forward in the Catholic Church's dialogue with Orthodox Christians. Pope Francis apologized, as the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens had asked.

"I asked for forgiveness for all the divisions that exist among Christians, but especially for those that we provoked. Catholics. I also apologized because, regarding the war of independence, Chrysostomos pointed something out to me... Some Catholics supported the European governments to prevent Greek independence."

That dialogue with Orthodox Christians is making progress. Pope Francis announced that he is preparing a meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow, which will likely take place in Finland.

Pope Francis also received a small sculpture of the Parthenon, as a souvenir of his apostolic visit.