Pope invites refugees to join him on stage for audience

Pope invites refugees to join him on stage for audience

Pope invites refugees to join him on stage for audience

Pope Francis invites a group of refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. A dozen men ascended the steps with Francis and sat in front of him on the ground as he delivered his weekly catechism lesson. (AP Photo/Fabio Frustaci)

Pope Francis invited a dozen refugees in Europe up onto the stage with him for his Wednesday General Audience on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, pressing his demand for Europe to welcome more migrants. A dozen men ascended the steps with Francis and sat in front of him on the ground, carrying banners of the charity that is caring for them and Vatican flags.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has invited a dozen refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica for his general audience to press his demand for Europe to welcome more migrants.

A dozen men ascended the steps with Francis on Wednesday and sat in front of him on the ground as he delivered his weekly catechism lesson. They carried banners of the Catholic charity in Florence, Italy, that is caring for them and Vatican flags.

In his remarks, Francis said the refugees had suffered in their home countries.

He said: “Please they are our brothers. A Christian excludes no one. I ask all of you: Let everyone come.”

Francis brought a dozen Syrian refugees home with him when he visited Greece in April. Recently, the Vatican brought a second group to Rome.

Pope Francis has made the European refugee crisis a top social and political priority for 2016, devoting his annual speech to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps in January to the subject and taking every opportunity to press his case for welcome and compassion.

His February trip to Mexico also featured a pro-immigrant statement with a stop at the U.S./Mexicio border, and on the papal plane returning to Rome, in a reference to Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump, the pontiff said any political leader who favors walls over bridges to deal with migrants is “not Christian.”

(Crux Staff also contributed to this report.)

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