“I will go together with my brothers,” Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Orthodox Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all of Greece, “to express our closeness and solidarity to the refugees, the citizens of Lesbos and to all the Greek people who have been so generous in welcoming them,” the pope said April 13 at his weekly general audience.
“I ask you to please accompany me with prayers, invoking the light and power of the Holy Spirit and the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary,” he added.
The pope, along with the two top Orthodox leaders of the region, will visit the island April 16 to highlight the dramatic situation of refugees stranded there.
Lesbos is just a few miles from the coast of Turkey, and for years migrants and refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East have been arriving on this and other nearby islands in an effort to reach Western Europe.
Pope Francis “wants to be there in order to draw attention to the sense of solidarity and responsibility” of all Christians, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, told reporters April 7.
The pope wants to go to Lesbos for the same reasons that drew him to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa: to point to “the reality of refugees and immigrants” and because “he sees an important emergency” unfolding there, he said.