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Vatican City (AsiaNews, 04/06/2016) – Pope Francis could accompany the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Orthodox primate of Greece Archbishop Hieronymos, on a visit to migrants and refugees on the island of Lesbos.
The director of the Vatican press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said that the Pope wishes to make this visit, but he cannot confirm dates or details.
What we know for now is that the Greek Orthodox Church has expressed the wish that Pope Francis visit the island where hundreds of thousands of migrants have been herded together. Most of them are from the Middle East and Africa and are waiting to enter Europe or be returned to Turkey or their homeland, according to an agreement drawn up between the EU and Turkey.
A statement from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople confirmed that the Pope, Hieronymus and Bartholomew will visit Lesbos “in the very near future.” The Greek site Romfea.gr instead reports that the Pope will certainly be present and that the visit will take place at the end of next week, with the presence of the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.
The visit has also made headlines in Greek media who point to a Greek Orthodox Synod document, which speaks of Pope Francis’s wishes and the visit, as well as the invitation to the pontiff by the Greek president.
Unofficial Greek government sources say that the visit should take place on 14-15 April and should last a few hours.
A visit by Pope Francis to Lesbos, along with the patriarch and primate would be a very strong gesture to push the European Union to change its policy towards migrants. According to Orthodox observers, a meeting of the Pope with the Primate and Bartholomew would also give help focus attention on the Great Orthodox Synod, scheduled for June 16 to 27 next in Crete.