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Rome Reports

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Best messages from Pope Francis' trip to Cyprus and Greece

Pope Francis' trip to Cyprus and Greece was full of powerful gestures and words against the plight of many migrants and refugees. In the first days, in Cyprus, the Pope met with migrants in the Church of the Holy Cross, one of the few Catholic churches in Nicosia. There, he compared the situation of people abandoned in transition countries to the dictatorships of the 20th century

"We read stories of the concentration camps from the last century, those of the Nazis, Stalin's, and we complain when we see... 'But how could this have happened?' But brothers and sisters, it's happening today, on neighboring shores, bridges of slavery."

Before leaving Cyprus, the Pope celebrated Mass with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa. There, he shared his recipe for fostering unity among Catholic and Orthodox Christians: opening one's eyes.

"If we remain divided, if each person thinks only of himself or herself, or his or her group, if we refuse to stick together, if we do not dialogue and walk together, we will never be completely healed of our blindness."

One of the first things he did when he arrived in Athens was meet with the Orthodox Archbishop of All Greece. They had a moving meeting, though it wasn't their first. The Pope again asked for forgiveness for the role many Catholics have played throughout history, in creating division between them and Orthodox Christians.

"Shamefully—I acknowledge this for the Catholic Church—actions and decisions that had little or nothing to do with Jesus and the Gospel, but were instead marked by a thirst for advantage and power, gravely weakened our communion. And here, today, I feel the need to ask anew for the forgiveness of God and of our brothers and sisters for the mistakes committed by many Catholics."

The next day, the Pope traveled to Lesbos. He had visited the island in 2016. He spoke very strongly about the danger of ideologies that reject migrants.

"Closing yourself off and nationalism—history teaches us—brings disastrous consequences. It is sad to hear proposed solutions such as the use of public funds to raise walls and barbed wire. We are in the era of walls and barbed wire."

On the final day of his trip, Pope Francis met with young Catholics in Greece. They aren't many, but he found time in his busy schedule to encourage them and give them helpful advice.

"Remember this well: being a Christian is not fundamentally doing this, doing that...doing things. There are things that must be done, but that is not the most fundamental part. Fundamentally, being a Christian is letting God love you and recognizing that you are unique, you are unique before God's love."

On his 35th apostolic visit, the Pope made an effort to close the gap between Catholic and Orthodox Christians. He showed support for the Catholic community; and defended refugees. It's another step to a better future for all.