ROME — The pope’s right-hand man for charitable outreach has returned to Rome from the Greek island of Lesbos with 33 migrants in tow and a harsh assessment of the state of affairs for migrants on the island.
“The camps are not refugee camps, they are concentration camps,” said Cardinal Konrad Krajewski on arriving in Rome’s Fiumicino airport Wednesday with 33 asylum-seekers hailing from Afghanistan, Cameroon, and Togo.
The cardinal said that the population of the two major migrant camps had more than doubled since his visit there last May, from 7,000 people to 15,000, and the camps are not equipped to handle these numbers of arrivals.
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The migrants start lining up for dinner at 2:00 p.m., he said, even though dinner won’t be served until 7:00 p.m. Many have no access to electricity and most will not have their first appointment to apply for documents until 2021.
“They live like this,” Krajewski said. “There’s no hope there.”
“The situation of migrants screams at us,” the Polish cardinal said. “And there is great compassion from the Holy Father towards these people, and we are doing everything we can to wake up every bishop in Europe, especially the bishops’ conferences. It is a shame for Europe.”
“We start from the pope, then the cardinals, bishops and priests, opening our homes and our palaces, because we have the space and we have the funds,” he said.
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The Cardinal’s grim appraisal of the situation on Lesbos echoed that of Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic charitable community that assisted in flying the refugees to Rome and will attend to their needs in Italy.
“Hope ends when they arrive in Greece,” he said.
Riccardi added that he had received hi marching orders directly from Pope Francis, who wished to give continuity to his own visit to Lesbos in 2016, when he famously brought back 12 Muslim migrants with him in the papal plane back to Rome.
“The pope said to me, ‘we have to do something, because my trip to Lesbos cannot be a simple episode. It must be a start. We need to give these people a sign of hope,’” he said.
Last May, on the third anniversary of the pope’s trip to Lesbos, he asked his Krajewski, who bears the title of “papal almoner,” to return to the island to “renew solidarity with the Greek people and refugees” and to make “a further gesture of solidarity” by bringing back a group of asylum-seekers.
According to a communiqué from the papal almoner’s office sent to Breitbart News, “after an intense period of official negotiations between the relevant bodies in order to open this new humanitarian corridor, the Ministry of the Interior of the Italian Republic has given the final consent to carry out the operation.”
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