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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Remembering to care for Syrians - the desperation of refugees

It's probably easy for the world too just ignore the plight of refugees. Thankfully, Pople Francis and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Batholomew I will make another effort to keep the world's attentionon on the desperate Syrian people and other refugees. Both religious leaders drew attention to the plight of the migrants and refugees by announcing an important joint visit.
Pope Francis
Pope Francis is prepared visit Lesbos with Patriarch Bartholomew I

The heads of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and the symbolic leader of the Eastern Orthodox, Patriarch Batholomew, churches may go to Greece as early as next week, on a trip that would signal support for migrants and refugees in that country.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, announced their proposed trip by church and government officials in Greece, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reported. They said the trip would happen late next week (in April 2016).

But the church leaders said the details are still being worked out. The ecumenical patriarch's website says the two leaders will visit the island of Lesbos "in the near future." The Vatican said "a definitive decision on the trip, the venue and date are yet to be made," Sylvia reports.

Both religious leaders have recently drawn attention to the plight of migrants and refugees.

"The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Francis has spoken out forcefully about the need for Europe to open its doors and heart to people fleeing persecution and poverty," Sylvia says.

The pontiff has been an outspoken critic of a recent deal between the EU and Turkey to deport migrants who arrive in Greece back to Turkey. That agreement went into effect this week, with more than 200 people deported from Greek islands.

The pope washed and kissed the feet of asylum-seeking refugees outside Rome on Holy Thursday, leading up to Easter.

The ecumenical patriarch, known as the "first among equals" among the leaders of the Orthodox church, held a prayer vigil for refugees in Novemberand dedicated his Christmas proclamation in 2015 to the state of refugees. He said that Jesus was a "political refugee" in his time and called those who persecute refugees "modern-day Herods," a reference to the king who, according to the Bible, ordered the death of every male infant in Bethlehem.

Lesbos has been named by the Orthodox church as the destination for the church leaders, and Joanna Kakissis, reporting for NPR from Athens, says it's a logical destination: it's where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees arrived last year, and where many of those currently facing deportation are located.

God Bless Pope Francis and Patriarch Batholomew I! I pray for America's Christians to pay attention to this high level mission, and to positively respond, by agreeing to accept more refugees, into the US.

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