VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday greeted thousands of refugees brought to Europe by Christian charities, recognising their difficult journeys and hailing their desire to “live free from fear and insecurity”.
At the Paul VI hall in the Vatican, the 86-year-old pontiff also thanked those who helped the refugees settle into their new lives, saying that “welcome is the first step towards peace”.
The audience included many of the 6,000 people who have been helped to Europe through “humanitarian corridors” run by Christian groups since 2016.
The scheme, initiated by the Catholic Sant´Egidio community in Italy and later extended to France and Belgium, involves people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Ukraine among others.
“I am happy to meet so many refugees and their families... each of you deserves attention for the hard history that you have lived,” Francis told them. “You have shown a firm will to live free from fear and insecurity.”
He paid particular tribute to those who survived grim conditions in detention camps in Libya, the preferred departure point for many of the tens of thousands of people who try to cross the Mediterranean into Europe each year.