Pope rescues 12 Syrian refugees
Pope Francis says his gesture was "a drop of water in the sea" of Europe's migration crisis, but for 12 Syrian refugees, the pope's decision to fly them back to Italy from Greece is an act of kindness that will resonate for the rest of their lives.
"Thanks be to God," exulted Wafa, mother of two children who made the trip with her husband, Osama, as she arrived in Rome. "I thank the pope for this very human gesture."
The three Muslim families, including six children, had all lost their homes in bombings, the Vatican said.
They were plucked from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where they had been stranded for weeks. They were chosen because they had their documents in order, not to make a political point to Europe about the need to better integrate Muslims, the pope said.
"Their privilege is that they are children of God," Francis told reporters en route home to Italy after an emotional trip to Lesbos on Saturday.
The Roman Catholic charity Sant'Egidio, which is providing the refugees with preliminary assistance, welcomed them at their headquarters in Rome's Trastevere neighbourhood late yesterday. The mothers were given red roses, and they were applauded as they arrived.