This Saturday, Pope Francis will undertake the 13th trip of his Pontificate outside of Italy. Although a visit of just a few hours, it is of great significance. The Holy Father will visit the Greek Island of Lesbos, in a trip of a humanitarian and ecumenical nature, as described by Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office.
Lesbos is the scene of the reception of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, seeking a better future in Europe. However, it has also becomes the place where many of them are repatriated to their native countries. Therefore, the Holy Father wishes to express his closeness to them, given the drama of immigration. At the end of the General Audience on Wednesday, he asked for prayers for this visit.
The Pontiff will be accompanied on the Greek Island by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and by the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos II.
The Pontiff will leave on Saturday, April 16 at 7:00 am from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Mytilene, where he is expected to arrive at 10:20 am local time.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will receive the Pope. Then His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece will welcome him, as will Monsignor Fragkiskos Papamanolis, OFM Cap, President of the Greek Episcopal Conference.
Pope Francis will hold a brief private meeting in the airport with the Greek Prime Minister. Then he will go by minibus, with Bartholomew I and Ieronymos II to the refugee camp of Moria. At present this camp accommodates some 2,500 refugees. Gathered along the barriers will be some 150 young guests of the Center. The religious leaders will cross the patio where refugees are registered and will arrive at a field tent where they will greet individually some 250 asylum seekers.
At 12:25 pm local time, there will be addresses by Archbishop Ieronymos II, Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Holy Father from the patio’s podium, after which they will sign a Joint Declaration.
After the addresses, the religious leaders will dine with some refugees in the structure behind the podium.
In the afternoon, they will go to the Coast Guards’ post to meet with the citizenry and with the Island’s small Catholic community. While there, a commemorative service will be held for the victims of migration. At that point, the Holy Father will deliver his second address of the day. Then the three religious leaders will each recite a brief prayer for the victims of migration. After a moment of silence, they will receive floral wreaths from three children, which will be cast into the sea.
Finally, the Holy Father will return to the airport, where three brief private meetings will be held: with the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, with the Ecumenical Patriarch and with the Greek Prime Minister. After the farewell ceremony at the Mytilene airport, the Pontiff’s flight will take off at 3:30 pm. His arrival in Rome is foreseen for 4:30 pm local time.