Pope Francis intends to visit the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos on April 15, in order to draw attention to the plight of refugees and sensitize European and international public opinion to the issue. The Church of Greece on Tuesday confirmed that it had accepted the Pontiff’s proposal to visit and had also extended an invitation to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “spiritual leader” of the Orthodox Church, to also pay a visit to the island at the same time.
According to the ANA-MPA correspondent in Rome, news of the intended visit was leaked by sources in the Vatican, who also indicated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew may travel to Lesvos and pointed to the very close, fraternal ties between the two primates.
The Pope has repeatedly brought attention to the refugee issue in recent weeks, appealing to all relevant institutions to assume due responsibility. He also visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, and called for an end to the loss of human lives as people tried to reach Europe in order to escape war and extreme poverty.
According to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, the visit also hopes to mobilize the international community’s efforts for an immediate ceasefire in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece briefed the Synod regarding the Pope’s request and the Synod accepted the proposed visit, suggesting that it take place on Lesvos.
The last visit by a Pope to Greece was that by Pope John-Paul II in the year 2000.