Earlier in the day, Pope Francis visited the Moria detention center, where some 3,000 people are awaiting decisions concerning their asylum status.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Alexis Tsipras, the mystery man from Greece, seems to keep popping up in the strangest of places with the most powerful of world leaders. For those of you who don’t know him, please visit the NTEB Alexis Tsipras archive.
The Pope was accompanied by two other religious leaders, the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and the Greek Archbishop Ieronymos. The three men signed a joint declaration expressing their concern for Europe’s migrant crisis.
Despite assurances by the papal spokesman, who earlier this week stated that the Pope’s trip to Lesbos would be purely humanitarian and ecumenical, it is difficult to ignore the political edge in the joint declaration.
In the declaration, the religious leaders specifically “urge all countries to extend temporary asylum, to offer refugee status to those who are eligible, to expand their relief efforts and to work with all men and women of good will for a prompt end to the conflicts in course.”
On behalf of modern society, Pope Francis begged the forgiveness of migrants and refugees Tuesday, asking them to forgive our “closed-mindedness and indifference” and insisting that each migrant has “the face of God.”
“Too often you have not been welcomed,” Francis said. “Forgive the closed-mindedness and indifference of our societies, which fear the change of lifestyle and mentality that your presence requires.”
The Pope addressed these words to migrants as part of a recorded video message in which he praised the work of the Jesuits who run the Centro Astalli, the Italian headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service. The message was released on April 19 in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the center.
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” the Pope said, citing Jesus’ words as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. Each of you, he said, has “the face of God and the flesh of Christ.”
Francis also told his audience, comprising migrants, workers and volunteers, that in contemporary society migrants are often treated like a burden or a problem, when in fact “you are instead a gift.”