Image copyright AFP Image caption Pope Francis met with the asylum seekers on Lesbos on Thursday
Pope Francis has decried the “shipwreck of civilization” as he visited refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos on Thursday.
He prayed for the victims of wars and welcomed those who have been uprooted in a speech during a visit to the island’s Aegean refugee camp.
Hundreds of mostly men, women and children travelled to Lesbos to welcome Pope Francis.
The visit came as 8,000 asylum seekers staged a huge protest in central Athens against the Mediterranean migrant routes that saw more than 332,000 refugees and migrants arrive in Greece last year.
In his address on Thursday at the camp at Moria, Pope Francis said the stories of women, children and men – many of whom came from war-torn countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East – have shocked him.
“We have become used to objects of folly, comedy, tragedy. We turn away instead of listening to their stories and listening to those of their relatives and loved ones, their desperation and insecurity,” he said.
“Maybe the shipwreck of civilization has happened before, and now we are sitting in the aftermath.”
Pope Francis visited Lesbos with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Thessaloniki, Nikolas III.
Nikolas said the Greek Orthodox church would help “the entire Christian community and world community, particularly the asylum seekers in such an important place where a strong positive impact can happen”.
Pope Francis then visited the island’s chapel of the patron saint of refugees, St Agrilos.
He then visited a Catholic charity on the island, St John’s, and took the first of about 50 Muslim migrants from a temporary camp there.
Pope Francis said St Agrilos was the angel from heaven who welcomed a human boat fleeing from war “like any other”.
Image copyright AFP Image caption Many of the refugees came from strife-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria
“You remind us that this place has not finished its mission as long as the men and women from the unrecognised countries, from Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Sudan, and so many others want to find a shelter.”
Last week Pope Francis visited an Orthodox refugee camp, and used the Christmas message to a group of refugees in the Greek island of Lesbos to pray for families whose loved ones were killed in the conflict.
“The conflicts which perpetuate this suffering today have no homeland. They result in so many deaths and have no end,” he said.
“May your wounds heal and may you find peace.”