After traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos, a primary entry point for refugees seeking passage into Europe, Pope Francis decided to bring 12 of them on his plane back to the Vatican as an act of welcome and solidarity.
“The Pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees, accompanying on his plane to Rome three families of refugees,” an April 16 communique from the Vatican read.
Coming from Syria, all of the families are Muslim and number 12 people in total, including six children. Two of the families are from Damascus, and one is from Deir Azzor, which is now territory occupied ISIS. Their homes had been bombed.
The initiative was brought to fruition through negotiations between the Vatican Secretariat of State and the competent Greek and Italian authorities.
It was announced as Pope Francis prepared to leave Greek island of Lesbos, where he traveled April 16 for a daytrip along with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; His Beatitude Ieronymos, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece, and Archbishop Fragkiskos Papamanolis, OFM Cap, President of the Greek Bishops Conference as a sign of concern and solidarity for migrants forced to flee their homelands due to war, violence, hunger and poverty.