The 84-year-old Argentine pontiff, who arrived shortly after 11 a.m. at Athens airport, regretted that
Europe persists in procrastinating in the face of migrant arrivals
instead of being a motor of solidarity.
He was speaking before the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou and the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as well as an audience of Catholic and civil society figures, who warmly applauded him at the Presidential Palace in Athens.
If Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos in 2016, where he will return on Sunday, it is the first visit by a pope to Athens in twenty years, since the visit of John Paul II in May 2001.
He had previously spent two days in Cyprus where he strongly lambasted
the wall of hate raised against migrants, fifty of whom will be transferred to Rome, according to Nicosia.
In Athens, the Pope Pontiff recalled that Greece had
received on some of its islands a number of migrant brothers and sisters greater than that of the inhabitants themselves.
” The European community, torn apart by nationalist egoisms, sometimes appears blocked and uncoordinated, instead of being a motor of solidarity. “
François also noted
a decline in democracy, and not only on the European continent, considering that
democracy requires everyone’s participation and involvement, when
authoritarianism is hasty and the easy assurances offered by populisms seem tempting.
A few minutes earlier, President Sakellaropoulou had mentioned the
humanity of the Greeks and the disproportionate burden they bore in the management of this crisis.
Our country strives as much as possible to prevent the illegal trafficking of people, she stressed.
The President also thanked the Pope for his
warm support during the conversion of the former Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, in order to
preserve as a universal symbol of religious worship and an iconic monument of world heritage.
Pope said to come to Athens
to quench one’s thirst at the sources of brotherhood and strengthen its ties with its
brothers of faith, Orthodox Christians, separated from the Catholic Church since the schism of 1054 between Rome and Constantinople.
Francis will meet on Saturday with the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Greece Hieronym II and his entourage.
In a video released shortly before his departure from Rome, the Pope introduced himself as
pilgrim to meet
all, not just Catholics, a minority of 1.2% in a country with a large majority of Orthodox religion, not separate from the State.
A whirlwind visit to Lesbos
This trip – his 35th abroad since his election in 2013 – will also be marked on Sunday by another whirlwind visit to Lesvos, emblematic of the migration crisis, where he said he would go.
at the sources of humanity advocate for hospitality and
the integration refugees.
Forty migrant defense NGOs urged the Pope to intervene to put an end to the alleged refoulements of exiles at the Greek-Turkish borders.
spiritual father is eagerly awaited in Lesvos, where around 30 new asylum seekers landed on Wednesday.
We wait for him with open arms, said Berthe, a Cameroonian who expects from the Pope
may he pray for us because of the insecurities we have been through.
brief visit of Mavrovouni camp, he will meet two refugee families
chosen at random, according to Dimitris Vafeas, deputy director of the camp.
Some 900 police officers were to be deployed during his trip to the Greek island and around the hastily erected camp after the September 2020 fire that destroyed the structure of Moria, which the Pope had visited five years ago. .
Drones, armored vehicles, cut roads: the capital is also placed under high security until the departure of the sovereign pontiff late Monday morning, in anticipation of possible manifestations of hostility.
Even if the climate is better than in 2001, during the first visit of a pope to Greece, there is, inside the Greek synod,
some well-known anti-Catholic fanatics, told theAFP Pierre Salembier, superior of the Jesuit community in Greece.
All gatherings were banned in the center of Athens, overflown by a helicopter. Up to 2,000 police officers are expected in the event of protests by orthodox fundamentalists.
Twenty years ago, John Paul II asked
sorry for the sins of Catholics against the Orthodox, with reference to the sack of Constantinople of 1204.