Three years after Pope Francis’ visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the aftermath of one of the greatest tragedies that have marked the modern history of immigration, Bergoglio will be back at the center of the Mediterranean Sea. On Friday, April 15, the Pontiff will fly to the Greek island of Lesbos for a quick journey, which has been arranged with the same speed. In the last few months, Lesbos has become the place of mandatory landing for thousands of refugees from the Middle East, a region plagued by wars and terrorism.
The Pope will travel to what may be called a “periphery” of the Old Continent, in order to meet the enormous tide of men, women, and children flee from the Middle East and pass through Greece on their way towards Europe where they hope to find a better future for their children. The upcoming papal trip was also agreed with the Orthodox Church of Greece. On March 21, the Greek orthodox bishop Gavril of Nea Ionia came to Rome for a confidential agreement concerning the details of the visit.
Upon his arrival to Lesbos, the Pope will be welcomed be the Archbishop of Athens Ieronimos II, together with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I. This trip fits into the “monthly trips” to places that are symbols of human suffering, which Pope Francis decided to take every month during this Jubilee of Mercy. The journey he will take in April is connected to the tragedy of the migrants who are trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe, whereas the latter builds walls and fences to prevent them from coming.
On February 28, at the end of the Angelus, Bergoglio raised to heaven his prayer for the “tragedy of the refugees who are fleeing from wars and other inhuman situations”. His thoughts addressed all the nations – “especially Greece, which is on the front line” that “are offering them generous aid, which requires the cooperation of all nations”. The Pope asked for “a choral answer” from the entire Europe, for which it is still difficult to reply.