2nd December, 2021
By Agency Report
Pope Francis departed from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 11:00 am local time en route to the Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus where he is scheduled to arrive in the afternoon for the first leg of his 5-day journey.
Vatican News reported that a group of refugees gathered in the Vatican to see him off as he departed the Casa Santa Marta for the airport by car.
They hail from Syria, Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan and were accompanied by the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.
Many of those present spent time in the Moria migrant camp in Lesbos before travelling to Italy.
Amongst them were some of those who Pope Francis brought back aboard the papal plane after his visit to Lesbos in April 2016.
Pope Francis’ 35th Apostolic journey, December, will see him visit Cyprus and Greece – two countries at the frontline of migratory routes for people fleeing their countries for Europe.
Ecumenical relations with the Orthodox Churches in the two countries will also be a highlight of Pope Francis’ visit.
He will spend 2 – 4 December in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, where he will meet with civil and religious authorities, the clergy, religious and the faithful in the country.
His schedule also includes the celebration of the Holy Mass on Friday at the GSP sports stadium in Nicosia, and an Ecumenical Prayer with migrants at the Parish Church of the Holy Cross.
On Saturday, Pope Francis will leave Cyprus for Athens, Greece, for the second leg of his visit which will last till Monday.
One highlight of his visit to Greece will be his visit with migrants at the Reception and Identification Center in Mytilene town in the island of Lesbos.
For the second time in five years, the Pope will visit the island which has long been dealing with migrant arrivals.
In 2016, Pope Francis had visited Lesbos when it was home to the largest refugee camp on the European continent.
On that occasion, he returned back to the Vatican with 12 Syrian refugees in a symbolic gesture to highlight the plight of vulnerable migrants. The refugee camp was destroyed in a fire in September 2020.
After meeting with young people in Athens on Monday morning, Pope Francis is scheduled to return to the Vatican.