Pope Francis thanked Greece for its “gracious hospitality” as he left Monday following a landmark three-day visit marked by calls for better treatment of migrants in Europe.
Before setting off, the pope met young people in a Catholic school on the outskirts of Athens, urging openness.
He also held brief talks Monday with the head of parliament, Konstantinos Tassoulas, and with the leader of the main opposition party, Alexis Tsipras, who thanked him for “his unwavering defence of human rights and social justice”.
Following his visit to the migration flashpoint, he celebrated mass for some 2,000 faithful in Athens, where he urged respect for the “small and lowly”.
He was warmly welcomed by a crowd of migrants at the camp, which houses nearly 2,200 asylum seekers.
“I am trying to help you,” Francis told one group through his interpreter.
– ‘Grim cemetery without tombstones’ –
The root causes “should be confronted — not the poor people who pay the consequences and are even used for political propaganda”, he added.
About 40 asylum-seekers, mostly from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, participated in an Angelus prayer in a camp tent with the pope on Sunday.
However, Menal Albilal, a Syrian mother with a two-month-old baby whose asylum claim was rejected after two years on the island, said refugees “want more than words, we need help.”
The pope has long championed the cause of migrants and his visit came after he delivered a stinging rebuke to Europe which he said was “torn by nationalist egoism”.
The 84-year-old pope is himself from a family of Italian migrants who settled in Argentina.
Originally published as Pope ends Greece visit focused on the plight of migrants