Athens (AFP), December 6 – Pope Francis thanked Greece for its “gracious hospitality” as he left on Monday after a historic three-day visit marked by calls for better treatment of migrants in Europe.
Before setting out, the Pope met young people in a Catholic school on the outskirts of Athens, inviting the opening.
“When the temptation to withdraw into oneself comes, look for others,” he said.
In a joyful atmosphere, punctuated by the religious songs of young people, he stressed the need to open up to others, “especially to those who need it”.
“When you are tempted to withdraw into yourself, you seek out others,” he urged them.
Addressing three young people, Katerina, Ioanna and Aboud, who shared their “doubts” or their own experience of faith, the Pope said he felt that “devoting oneself to others is not for the losers , it’s for the winners!
The pontiff, who sought to reach out to young people, remarked that “a lot of people today are constantly using social media, but are not very social themselves: they are caught in themselves, prisoners of the cell phone to the hand “.
– “Not reality” screens –
“What appears on the screen is not the reality of others: their eyes, their breath and their hands”, tried to convince the pontiff in front of a predominantly adolescent audience.
“The screen can easily become a mirror, where you think you are looking at the world, but in reality you are all alone,” he warned.
Speaking to Aboud Gabo, an 18-year-old Syrian who described his “perilous trip to Greece” after fleeing the war in Aleppo, the Pope called on him, like Telemachus in the Odyssey, not to be “paralyzed” By his fears.
“Dream big and dream together… Nourish the courage of hope”, said the Pope.
Earlier today, he also had brief talks with the leader of parliament, Konstantinos Tassoulas, and with the leader of the main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras, who thanked him for “his steadfast defense of human rights and of social justice ”.
– ‘The sinking of civilization’ –
The day before, on the island of Lesbos, François, a staunch defender of migrants, denounced the migration crisis in Europe as a “shipwreck of civilization” in a passionate speech at the Mavrovouni camp.
In 2016, Francis visited the vast Moria camp on Lesvos, when the island was the main gateway for migrants heading to Europe.
On Sunday, he was warmly greeted by a crowd of migrants in the camp, which is home to nearly 2,200 asylum seekers.
The people then gathered in a tent to sing songs and psalms to the pontiff, who listened to them, visibly moved.
“I’m trying to help you,” Francis told a group through his interpreter.
Mavrovouni camp was hastily erected after Moria, then the largest such site in Europe, was burnt down last year.
– ‘Grim graveyard without tombstones’ –
In his speech, Francis warned that the Mediterranean “is becoming a grim graveyard without headstones” and that “after all this time we see that little in the world has changed regarding the issue of migrations “.
The root causes “should be tackled – not the poor who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda,” he added.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 1,559 people died or went missing while attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean this year.
The Pope has long championed the cause of migrants and his visit came after he addressed a scathing rebuke to Europe which he said was “torn by nationalist selfishness”.
Before arriving in Greece, the Pope traveled to Cyprus, where authorities have said 50 migrants will be relocated to Italy thanks to Francis.
The 84-year-old pope himself comes from a family of Italian migrants settled in Argentina.
Following his visit to the migration center, he celebrated Mass on Sunday for some 2,000 faithful in Athens, where he called for respect for the “small and humble”.
On Monday at the airport, he invoked “the blessings of God on the (Greek) nation”, before heading to Rome. He is expected to give a press conference on board.