Pope Francis arrived at the Athens airport this Saturday morning for a two-and-a-half day visit., the first by a pontiff to the Greek capital in 20 years, confirmed a journalist from the news agency AFP.
The Pope arrived shortly after 11:00 (09:00 GMT) in Athens. There he plans to pronounce three speeches in the afternoon, before the authorities, the Orthodox Archbishop, and then before representatives of the Catholic Church.
The last visit of a pope to the Greek capital was in May 2001 with John Paul II. The Argentine pontiff had traveled to Greece in 2016, but his stay was limited to the island of Lesbos, the gateway for thousands of migrants to Europe.
As during the two days spent in Cyprus, Francis is going to “Satisfy their thirst at the sources of brotherhood” and to strengthen ties with their “brothers of faith”, the Orthodox Christians, separated from the Catholic Church since the Eastern Schism in 1054 between Rome and ancient Constantinople.
In a video posted shortly before his departure from Rome, the pope introduced himself as a “Pilgrim” to meet “everyone, not just Catholics”, a minority of 1.2% in a country where the Orthodox religion, linked to the State, dominates.
On Saturday he will meet with the president Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the first Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and with the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, Jerome II.
Then he will meet the country’s Catholic community, for which “the presence of the Holy Father in Greece is an encouragement,” according to Markos Foscolos, theologian and priest on the island of Tenos.
Return to Lesbos
Your two and a half day stay in Greece will be marked by a new visit on Sunday to the island of Lesbos, emblem of the migratory crisis, where he goes “to the sources of humanity” to defend asylum and the “integration” of refugees.
On Friday, in Cyprus, Pope Francis asked “Open our eyes” in the face of “slavery” and “torture” suffered by migrants in the camps. According to the Cypriot authorities, 50 migrants, 10 of them in an irregular situation detained, will be transferred to Rome.
A quarantine of migrant defense NGOs requested to meet with him so that he intercede to end the alleged returns of exiles from Greece to Turkey.
The “spiritual father” is eagerly awaited on Lesbos, where some thirty new asylum seekers arrived on Wednesday.
“We await you with open arms“Said Berthe, a Cameroonian who wants the pope” to pray for us because of the insecurity we have experienced and to help us overcome it in faith. “
During your “short” visit to the Mavrovouni field, “He will take a clear interest in refugees” and will meet with two families “chosen at random”said Friday to the middle ERT the deputy director of the field, Dimitris Vafeas.
Some 900 policemen will be deployed during their displacement to the Greek island and around the hastily erected camp after the September 2020 fire in the Moria compound, visited by the pope five years ago.
Drones, armored vehicles, blocked streetsThe Greek capital will also have a strong security device until the pontiff’s march on Monday morning, in anticipation of possible anti-pope demonstrations.
Although the climate is better than in 2001, during the first visit of a pope to Greece, there is within the Greek synod “Some reputed anti-Catholic fanatics”Pierre Salembier, superior of the Jesuit community in Greece, tells AFP.
The most famous is the metropolitan bishop Seraph of Piraeus, which described the visit of Francisco de “immoral”, according to the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Until 2,000 policemen will be mobilized in Athens in the face of possible protests by orthodox fundamentalists. “They will be few in number, but noisy,” warns theologian Petros Panagiotopoulos, a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
20 years ago, John Paul II asked forgiveness for the sins of Catholics against the Orthodox, referring to the siege and sack of Constantinople in 1204.
Even so, the Catholic Archbishop of Athens, Théodore Kodidis, hopes that “individuals or groups will protest and return on the weight of history.”
But he does not judge that they have a “significant influence” and sees in this meeting with the Orthodox Church “A sign of hope and progress”.
Although a government source called the visit “significant”, many Greeks are not interested in this event, Kodidis notes. Because “this is an orthodox country, the pope is still a distant figure”.
(With information from AFP)
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