Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos, arriving at what is considered the heart of Europe's refugee crisis on the morning of April 16.
Pope Francis was looking to bring sympathy and attention to the situations of the migrants on the island, as a recently a deal between the European Union and Turkey will send all migrants arriving in Greece after March 20 to be detained and then deported back to Turkey unless they are able to succeed in applying for asylum in the country.
Lesbos has served as the first port of call for thousands upon thousands of people who are seeking refuge in Europe as they attempt to escape war, poverty and oppression in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. However, since the controversial ruling was implemented, Lesbos has also seen hundreds of deportations as families from Turkey who wished to seek refuge were instead turned away.
Pope Francis met with refugees in a detention center and shared a meal with them while listening to their stories. His Holiness also tossed a floral wreath into the ocean to honor the memories of the people who were not successful in making the journey to Greece from Turkey or elsewhere.
"We are going to encounter the greatest human catastrophe since World War II," said Pope Francis before boarding his flight to Greece from Rome, adding that the trip is marked by sadness due to the suffering that the refugees have gone through.
The Vatican, however, claims that the visit by Pope Francis is purely religious and humanitarian in nature, and not a criticism of the deal struck between the European Union and Turkey. The Pope, however, hopes that his visit to Lesbos will stir the conscience of Europeans in accepting the refugees seeking for help away from the difficulties that they experienced in their home countries.
Pope Francis, in a dramatic humanitarian act, also offered to take back to Italy three Syrian families upon his departure from Lesbos.