The pope has asked to visit Greece to show support for refugees there, and Greek church authorities have approved plans for a papal trip to Lesbos, officials said Tuesday.
The Greek Orthodox church added that it had invited ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, the head of the Eastern Orthodox church, “so that he can honour Lesbos with his presence the day of Pope Francis’s visit”.
The Vatican did not confirm that the pope would be visiting the Greek island, but its spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, did not deny that contact had been made about the possibility.
A Greek church statement published on the specialist website Dogma.gr gave no dates for the visits, but the site suggested they would take place on 15 April.
The head of the Greek Orthodox church, archbishop Ieronymos II, has been informed “of the wish of Pope Francis to visit Greece,” to “draw the attention of the international community to the need for an immediate ceasefire in the conflicts” in the Middle East and to “shed light on the major humanitarian problem” of the influx of migrants to Lesbos and other Greek islands, the statement said.
The Greek church has accepted the Pope’s proposal for an informal “symbolic and humanitarian” visit to an Aegean Sea island for a few hours, it added.
The Greek Orthodox church chose to invite the pontiff to Lesbos, which over the past year has been the main port of arrival into Europe from Turkey for those fleeing war and poverty in their own countries. Many of the arrivals are from Syria.