During a historic visit to Greece, Pope Francis apologized for mistakes made by Catholics and urged respect for the “small and lowly,” while also highlighting the plight of refugees and migrants.
On Saturday, the leader of the Catholic Church met with Archbishop of Athens and Greece Ieronymos. The two discussed a number of issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, the environment and immigration.
A forthright Ieronymos told the pope that he applauded the pontiff’s sensitivity to the issue of migration, but felt the need to stress that migration flows must be stopped, referring to the weaponization of refugees by countries such as Turkey.
Changing topics to the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence, Ieronymos claimed that popes from that era had kept their distance from the Greek struggle for freedom.
“I do not want to embarrass you, but I believe that among people who want to be called brothers and sisters in Christ, the best language is honesty,’ the archbishop said.
This prompted Francis to ask for forgiveness for the crimes committed by the Catholic Church.
“History has its own weight, and today I have the need to ask God and my brothers and sisters once again for forgiveness for the mistakes committed by so many Catholics,” the pope said.
Speaking during holy mass on Sunday at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall, the leader of the Catholic Church said “God turns his gaze to wherever sadness and loneliness abound.”
“The Lord likes best what is small and lowly,” Francis told faithful in attendance. “Redemption did not begin in Jerusalem, Athens or Rome but in the desert.”
During his six-day trip to Greece and Cyprus, which included a trip to Lesvos and the island’s refugee camp, the pope called on Europe to do more.
“Europe continues to stall, falling prey to forms of nationalistic self-interest rather than being an engine of solidarity,” Francis said. “At times, it appears faltering and uncoordinated.”
“In the past, ideological conflicts prevented the building of bridges between eastern and western Europe,” he said. “Today the issue of migration has led to breaches between south and north as well.”
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