Papal spotlight: Migration is major theme of trip to Cyprus and Greece

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will draw the world's attention to migration once again as he visits Cyprus and Greece in early December.

The number of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos -- where Pope Francis will fly Dec. 5 -- is a fraction of what it was when he visited in 2016 and took 12 Syrian refugees back to Rome with him.

But people are still there, living in a temporary camp, often after surviving "pushback" attempts on the part of the Greek or Turkish military, supported by European Union policies.

And no one could say the situation is better on Cyprus, even if migrant arrivals there seldom make the international news.

Pope Francis will visit Cyprus Dec. 2-4 and Greece Dec. 4-6.

Since late 2018, Cyprus has received more asylum-seekers per capita than any country in the European Union, but has been slow to react to the influx, said Elizabeth V. Kassinis, executive manager of Caritas Cyprus. "Ninety-nine percent of our beneficiary population now are migrants."

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas aid and development agency and a partner in the Caritas network, has given Caritas Cyprus a grant to help care for the asylum-seekers, many of whom are homeless, Kassinis told Catholic News Service Nov. 22.