Pope meets Afghan family relocated to Italy for child’s care

International
Pope Francis

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience as a child plays on the steps of the Paul VI Hall, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has greeted an Afghan family he met during a visit this month to a refugee camp in Greece and who he helped resettle to Italy because the youngest child needs medical care.

Francis greeted the family at the end of his general audience Wednesday, during which he once again urged European countries to share the responsibility of welcoming in migrants.

“All you need to do is open a door. The door of the heart. Let’s not miss doing it this Christmas,” he said.

Francis had stressed that message during his Dec. 2-6 visit to Cyprus and Greece, most poignantly when he met with refugees at a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. It was his first trip back to Lesbos since he he brought back a dozen Syrian refugees aboard his plane at the end of a 2016 visit.

While there, he learned of the health care needs of the 1 1/2-year-old Afghan boy. The Vatican didn’t identify the family or say what medical care he needs. He had scrambled onto the steps of the Vatican audience hall and was sitting there when the pope arrived for the encounter Wednesday morning.

The Vatican, working with the Rome-based Catholic charity Sant’Egidio charity, has also transferred to Italy the first dozen of an expected 50 asylum-seekers from Cyprus, mostly from Africa and Syria.

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