12 migrants travel to Vatican with Pope Francis after Greece visit

By Marilyn Malara  |  April 16, 2016 at 1:30 PM
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LESBOS, Greece, April 16 (UPI) -- Pope Francis took three migrant families that had fled from war-torn Syria and surrounding areas to the Vatican after his six-hour visit to the Greek coast.

A total of 12 migrants, including six children, were flown to Rome after accepting an invitation aboard the papal Alitalia jet Saturday after Francis met with Syrians in Lesbos.

In a statement from Holy See Press Office Director Federico Lombardi, the Pope wanted to "make a gesture of welcome regarding refugees."

All three families are Muslims and were already located at camps on the island before last month's agreement between the European Union and Turkey meant to lessen the flow of refugees, the Vatican said.

Two of the families are from Damascus while one is from the Islamic State-occupied Deir Ezzor. All of their homes had been bombed.

Lesbos is currently a heavily populated area of migrants traveling from Syria and nearby areas. The pope visited a detention camp during his visit, taking a moment to remember those who died in an attempt to arrive to the island's shores.

"We are all migrants," he said as he threw a wreath into the sea.

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