|Pope Francis meeting with refugees during his Apostolic visit to Cyprus. Source: Catholic News Service|
On December 17 during his visit to the island of Cyprus, Pope Francis met with asylum seekers from Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Somalia and Syria as part of commemoration for his birthday to raise attention to the global plight of migrants.
The group composed of four women and six men from the continent of Africa was to initially include two more refugees, but due to precautionary quarantines, the Pope was unable to meet with them. The refugees seeking asylum in Europe entered the European Union through the Greek island of Cyprus, which has the highest per capita number of migrants and asylum-seekers.
Later this year, the group will be transported to Italy under a special humanitarian visa program. The asylum seekers were accompanied to the Apostolic to visit with members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is assisting them to find housing and learn Italian.
During the audience, the migrants exchanged stories with His Holiness expressing their aspirations for the future and hope to be reunited with their families. Several migrants were noted for their exceptional training that included a doctor and a software engineer.
Prior to being granted asylum several members of the group had been detained for not having proper travel documentation.
“You saved us!” a young man from Congo told the pope, according to the Vatican press office.
“Wishing him ‘long life and good health’ on his birthday, the refugees gave the pope a gift of a painting by an Afghan refugee, depicting the attempt of some migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican Press Office.
Source: Catholic News Service