Pope Francis said that migrants around the world live in conditions equivalent to concentration camps on Friday.
The pope was at a meeting with a group of migrants in Cyprus when he made his remarks, where he departed from a traditionally prepared speech to voice his concerns about the treatment of refugees:
“Brothers and sisters, this is happening today,” he said, referring to the state of refugee camps in Libya where migrants are sent after being turned away in Europe. “They have ended up in concentration camps where women are sold, men are tortured and [people] enslaved,” he added.
The pope had spent the day talking directly to migrants and listening to them recount their firsthand experiences in the world’s intake systems. The 84-year-old was struck by their stories, and lamented what he perceived as the world’s “indifference” to the migrant crisis, comparing it to a disease for which there is seemingly no cure:
“The worst thing is that we are getting used to it..this indifference is a grave disease for which there is no antibiotic.”
But Francis also maintained his commitment to raising awareness of the uncomfortable truths of the migrant crisis, saying that “it is my responsibility to open eyes.”
A migrant from Cameroon named Marcolins spoke with the pope about his feelings about the way migrants have been treated, telling him that he is “someone wounded by hate. Hate experienced once cannot be forgotten. There is the hate that leads one human being to use a gun not just to shoot another but to break his bones while others watch.”
Pope heads to Greece after Cyprus visit
This is the pope’s final day in Cyprus. He will arrive in Greece on Saturday, December 4. This has been the pope’s second visit to the Mediterranean island, in what was dubbed by the Vatican as an “Apostolic journey.”
President Nicos Anastasiades said that the Pope’s decision to visit a small island like Cyprus proves the greatness of the Pope’s personality, to the peoples who suffer and who accept violations of international law.
“It is with great honor and joy that I welcome you to the Republic of Cyprus,” Anastasiades told the Pope. “On behalf of the entire Cypriot people, I express my gratitude and I welcome you,” he added.
Speaking after a meeting in the Presidential Palace, Anastasiades said that Cyprus shares the Pope’s vision for peaceful coexistence, dialogue between states and religions, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
The Pope said he came to Cyprus “with the same desire as the Apostle Barnabas: to see the grace of God at work in your Church and your land, to rejoice with you at the wondrous things the Lord has done, and to urge you to persevere always, without growing weary or discouraged.”