The Latest: Tsipras says pope'south visit to Lesbos is historic

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 11:08 AM

m. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says Pope Francis' visit to the Greek island of Lesbos is a historic event and an necessary opportunity to highlight the necessity to discover a valid route into Europe for those fleeing conflict.

The Latest: Tsipras says pope'south visit to Lesbos is historic

The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to the Greek island of Lesbos (all times local):

ten:50 a. m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says Pope Francis' visit to the Greek island of Lesbos is a historic event and an necessary opportunity to highlight the necessity to discover a valid route into Europe for those fleeing conflict.

Tsipras says he's pleased of the Greek people for welcoming refugees and other migrants at a time when they're suffering below austerity measures imposed on Greece by the country'south international lenders.

"I am pleased of this, particularly at a time when some of our partners — even in the title of Christian Europe — were erecting walls and fences to prevent defenseless people from seeking a better life. That's why I consider that your visit is historic and important," Tsipras told Francis shortly after his arrival at the airport Saturday.

He said the pope'south visit "is a very necessary opportunity to indicate the necessity to stop the war, the taking advantage of people and to give the opportunity of a valid route for these people who leave their homes and look for for a better future in Europe."

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10:30 a. m.

Pope Francis has been greeted on the Greek island of Lesbos by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the leaders of the world'south Orthodox Christians and the Church of Greece.

Tsipras greeted Francis as he descended the stairs from the plane Saturday. He was followed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Ieronymos, who both greeted the pope with a kiss on each cheek before the Greek and Italian national anthems were played. The head of Lesbos' tiny Catholic community was also present.

The religious leaders' visit to the island, which has seen the majority of the arrivals of migrants heading into Europe, is a highly symbolic one. It comes shortly after the European Union began deporting new arrivals back to Turkey below a controversial deal meant to stem the refugee flow.

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10:10 a. m.

Pope Francis has arrived in Greece for a provocative visit to meet with refugees at a detention middle as the European Union implements a controversial map to deport them back to Turkey.

Francis' Alitalia charter touched down at the airport in Mytilene shortly after 10 a. m., some twenty minutes ahead of time.

Francis and the spiritual boss of the world'south Orthodox Christians will spend nearly an hr Saturday greeting some two hundred fifty refugees stuck on the Greek island of Lesbos. They'll lunch with eight of them to hear their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe. And then they'll pray together, tossing a floral wreath into the sea in memory of those who didn't make it.

The visit is meant to highlight the plight of refugees, thank the Greek people who have welcomed them in, and to indicate a united Christian response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding.

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10:00 a. m.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is meeting with the leaders of the Church of Greece and the world'south Orthodox Christians at the airport on the island of Lesbos shortly before the arrival of Pope Francis for a visit that'll highlight the plight of refugees.

Tsipras says Greece is currently hosting more than 50.000 refugees and migrants and is trying to allow them with excellent living conditions despite the difficulties. Most of those who have entered Greece from Turkey have done so through Lesbos, which has seen hundreds of thousands of people come on its shores in the past year.

Francis and the two Orthodox leaders are to visit refugees and migrants being held in a detention middle pending deportation and to throw floral wreaths into the sea in memory of those who died making the journey.

Below a controversial European Union-Turkey deal meant to reduce the flow of refugees into Europe, those arriving on Greek islands after March twenty are returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

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09:50 a. m.

Municipal crews are scrubbing walls in the capital and main harbour of the island of Lesbos after graffiti was sprayed overnight in places where Pope Francis will speak.

The crews removed the words "Papa Don't Preach" sprayed in black at several points on the seafront in Mytilene.

Francis will visit refugees in Lesbos Saturday to highlight their plight. He'll be joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual boss of the world'south Orthodox Christians, and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II, head of the Church of Greece.

The joint ride comes shortly after the start of a controversial European Union-Turkey deal below which any migrant arriving on Greek islands after March twenty will be detained and returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

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09:35 a. m.

The European border patrol agency Frontex has intercepted a dinghy carrying forty-one Syrians and Iraqis off the coast of the Greek island of Lesbos, three hours before Pope Francis was to land on the island for a visit highlighting the plight of refugees.

The refugees were detained and brought to shore Saturday in the harbour of Mytilene. Later in the day, the pope, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual boss of the world'south Orthodox Christians, and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II, head of the Church of Greece, will toss floral wreaths into the sea nearby in memory of migrants who have died making the same journey.

Below a controversial European Union-Turkey deal that came into effect March twenty, all those arriving on Greek islands from that date on are detained and deported back to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece.

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