The announcement was made this Friday by the Vatican press office, which explained that details of the trip will be given later, the third this year after his visits to Iraq in March and to Budapest and Slovakia last September.
“Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus from December 2 to 4, to visit the city of Nicosia, and to Greece, from December 4 to 6, to visit Athens and the island of Lesbos”Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a brief statement.
The Argentine pope’s 35th trip abroad will be marked by his return to Lesvos, an island he visited in 2016 to bring hope to refugees at Camp Moria.
The Argentinian pontiff, who turns 85 in December and underwent colon surgery in July this year, had to cancel his trips last year due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Son of Italian immigrants, Francisco is very sensitive to the migration issue and since his election in March 2013, he has never ceased to express his solidarity with migrants around the world, who risk their lives for a better future.
A visit to see the evolution
During his first visit to Lesvos five years ago, the pope was accompanied by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, and at the end he brought three families from the camp from Karatape, a total of 12 people, including six minors.
A symbolic visit at a time of bitter criticism of the overcrowding of refugees that had been produced by the expulsion agreement between the European Union and Turkey.
Last month, a Vatican delegation visited the Mavrovouni migrant camp in Lesbos to plan the papal trip.
Built in September 2020 to house, among other things, migrants stranded after the burning of the controversial Moria camp, the Mavrovouni camp is in fact the only detention center still standing on Lesvos, according to several NGOs.
Although everyone agrees that “safety is better” that in Moria, living conditions are not much better and people are subjected to long confinements while waiting to be granted asylum, according to what AFP found in a long report in March.
The Archbishop of Catholics in the Aegean, Joseph Printezis, explained in October that Francis again wanted to send a message of solidarity on behalf of the Church and the peoples of Europe and at the same time ask for recognition of the weight that constitutes the welcome of Greece for Greece, of so many migrants.
Pope “wants to see how the refugee issue evolves” and the “fruit of the efforts of Greece”specified the archbishop in front of the press.
The clerics made it clear that the pope wanted to go from there “a humanitarian statement, that the Church and all the peoples of Europe care about refugees, and also to refer to the fact that the weight carried by Greece should be recognized by other European countries”.
The Argentine pontiff, who wants to be considered the pope of the poor and the voiceless, will arrive on December 5 in Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos, where he will spend the day.