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Greek Orthodox Church welcomes Pope Francis ahead of Lesbos refugee visit

by Hannah Tooley

The Pope will visit the island of Lesbos this weekend, having focussed on the plight of migrants and refugees regularly since he assumed the papacy in 2013.

Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens has asked the pontiff to "send a powerful message to nations and their leaders to assume their responsibilities" in how they are dealing with the refugee crisis, and "drive the message home that greater co-operation is needed in dealing with the refugee crisis."

Pope Francis' trip to Greece on Saturday is the first trip a pope has made to the island since 2001, when conflicts between the Catholic and Orthodox churches meant the trip was almost cancelled.

Relations between the two churches have gotten better in recent years, thanks partly to the Vatican's support of letting asylum seekers into countries.

Certain countries have closed their borders to refugees and migrants, which has increased Greece's burden significantly.

AP Photo/Santi Palacios

The country has taken in around 50,000 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants over recent months, according to The Times.

Archbishop Ieronymos II also told the Athens paper Ethnos: "Greece is already in a difficult situation due to its financial crisis.

"One would have expected Europe to be more sensitised in its stance."

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