: New York Times: Pope Francis takes 12 refugees back to Vatican after trip to Greece

15:46 Apr. 17, 2016

New York Times: Pope Francis takes 12 refugees back to Vatican after trip to Greece

Pope Francis meets migrants at the Moria detention centre on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. (Getty Images)

The pope did not explain how the families had been chosen

Pope Francis made an emotional visit into the heart of Europe's migrant crisis on Saturday and took 12 Muslim refugees from Syria, including six children, with him back to Rome aboard the papal plane.

The action punctuated the pope's pleas for sympathy to the crisis confronting the refugees just as European attitudes are hardening against them.

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Those taken to Rome were three families — two from Damascus and one from Deir al-Zour — whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war, the Vatican said in a statement as the pope departed the Greek island of Lesbos, where he had visited the Moria refugee camp. "The pope has desired to make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees," the statement said.

The announcement capped a brief trip by the pope to Greece that again placed the plight of migrants at the center of his papacy.

Read also  Pope Francis prays for peace in Ukraine during Easter sermon in Vatican

"We have come to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution," Francis said during a lunchtime visit to the Moria camp, where leaders of Eastern Orthodox Christian churches joined him.

"As people of faith, we wish to join our voices to speak out on your behalf," Francis continued. "We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity."

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