Pope Francis spoke about the immigration crisis facing the world on Friday, calling for people to take responsibility for safeguarding our “common home”.
Francis visited the Holy Cross Cathedral in Nicosia, Cyprus, just weeks after the Pope from the island’s archipelago arrived in Rome on a tour of Europe.
Nicosia’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel church has a reputation for being overcrowded – so much so that the tight corners of the chapel leave room for a single man or woman to sit in.
In that church’s lower floor, three women sat in a hallway. One of them spoke with the Pope in a chaste embrace on the floor. Their attire was conservative – white at the knees and gown-like headpiece. A black sash covered their necks.
Francis is an advocate for migrant rights. Several months ago, Francis visited a migrant shelter in Rome, telling reporters after Mass that the pope knew the difference between a refugee and an infidel.
Addressing Pope Francis today, the Greek Archbishop of Athens, Antonios Lefkaritis, said Europe’s response to immigration was “very alarming”.
He accused member states of prioritising “lack of funds” over concern for “the humanitarian nature of the crisis”.
“In the words of Holy Father Francis, and the Catholic Church, [they are] showing signs of political irresponsibility and stigmatisation of migrants,” he said.
The Pope’s comments on migrants came as migrants from the Middle East continue to arrive in Europe.
The death toll of migrants at sea between Turkey and Greece is believed to have reached 4,800 since January, according to Greek officials. There are more than 25,000 migrants and refugees registered in Greece.
Sixteen people drowned when a dinghy capsized off Turkey on Thursday. Seven other deaths were reported earlier this week.
Pope Francis has used official and unofficial language to express his support for migrants in the past.
During his trip to Rome, he met with several migrants, including a boy who had crossed the Mediterranean from Libya.