As political opinion on migrants has hardened in Europe, pontiff has pushed for a more welcoming approach
The five-hour visit to the island of Lesbos on Saturday is the pontiff’s strongest gesture to date in support of a more welcoming approach in Europe to the huge numbers of migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, attempting to reach the continent.
He is expected to reiterate his call for an open-door policy for those fleeing war, persecution and poverty, a position he has put at the center of his papacy.
It is a stance that sees the pope increasingly isolated, as political and public opinion in Europe hardens on migration. The Rev. Federico Lombardi, however, told reporters that the pope’s visit should not be considered “direct criticism” of a new policy of deporting migrants to Turkey.
However, Father Lombardi added it was “absolutely evident that solutions haven't been found for a situation in which so many are suffering.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will welcome the pope at the airport in Lesbos’s capital of Mytilene on Saturday morning, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, and Greek Archbishop Hieronymus.