Pope Francis made an emotional visit to the Greek island of Lesbos Saturday, plucking 12 Syrian refugees to take back to Rome with him and draw attention to what he called Europe’s most serious humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.
Francis, who has made migration a defining issue of his papacy, visited a refugee center as he appealed to the international community to deal with the migrants crisis as a humanitarian catastrophe.
The pope said there was “reason to weep” on his visit to the refugees, and he brushed aside any political reasons for his invitation to have three families from Syria, 12 people including six children, accompany him on the flight home.
“It is a purely humanitarian thing,” he told reporters on his chartered plane.
The Vatican will take financial responsibility for the families and an organization of volunteers, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, will initially host the groups, according to a statement.