Pope visits Cyprus and Greece: a rebuke for Europe

Pope Francis has travelled to the Republic of Cyprus and Greece for four days, where he visited the island of Lesbos for the second time. While there he sharply criticised the treatment of refugees in Europe, describing it as a shipwreck of civilisation. In Nicosia, he called the reception camps places of torture and slavery. He also pledged to bring 50 asylum seekers from Cyprus to Italy.

Open/close all quotes
Irish Examiner (IE) /

Powerful food for thought

The Irish Examiner is full of praise for the Pope's initiative:

“Returning to Lesbos, one of the epicentres of the illegal migration route into Europe, for the first time in five years, he blasted the indifference and self-interest of continental leaders and political opinion 'that condemns to death those on the fringes'. ... While the migrant issue has been the dominant theme, Pope Francis also took aim at other targets. Warming to Homeric imagery in his descriptions of the Odyssean challenges facing people who are trafficked, he urged young people to follow their dreams and not be tempted by the consumerist 'sirens' of today ... It is a powerful sermon for the times by a religious leader at the height of his eloquence. We should think on it.”

Avgi (GR) /

Shameless Greek government

Athens's representatives looked completely out of place during the Pope's visit, Avgi notes:

“The government must have felt very uncomfortable during Pope Francis's visit. Because it is the same government that has been accused internationally of barbaric practices towards refugees and migrants. Of push-backs at sea. Of kidnappings, beatings and forcible deportations. Reports of this are constantly being published in Europe, and they are not even refuted. ... Government members even had the gall to accompany the pope [on Lesbos]. And to pretend to listen attentively to his humanitarian sermon.”

ABC (ES) /

Take in refugees within reasonable bounds

ABC calls for solidarity but says this must not endanger Europe's prosperity:

“The 'shipwreck of civilization' that the Bishop of Rome spoke of referring to the thousands of refugees waiting at the gates of Europe is taking place on Lesbos and on many of the continent's shores. ... The EU has a moral obligation to take in refugees within its means, without jeopardising the fragile social and economic balance that allows it to survive and remain a beacon of freedom and prosperity. For their part, the developing countries must assume their responsibilities in the construction of a new world that cannot begin and end in Europe. But they must not lack support in doing this.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

A moral gesture

The Cypriot government should not misinterpret the pope's pledge to take a number of refugees to Italy, the Cyprus Mail points out:

“It was a gesture of kindness by the Pontiff that the interior ministry thanked him for but was also quick to put a political spin on. ... He spoke about the need 'to break down walls' and that 'we need to welcome and integrate one another and to walk together as brothers and sisters, all of us.' And by taking 50 migrants with him back to Italy, he was not setting an example for our European partners to follow but encouraging us to be more welcoming and accepting of migrants. He was making a moral point, far removed from the practicalities of having to deal with a steadily increasing inflow of migrants.”