Pope Francis made an emotional visit to Greece on Saturday to thank its people for welcoming migrants and meet with refugees as the European Union implements a controversial plan to deport them back to Turkey. The Vatican has confirmed that 12 Syrian refugees, all of them Muslim, are traveling with the pope back to Italy from Greece, the AP reports. The three families, including six children, met with Francis on the tarmac on the island of Lesbos and boarded the plane. The Vatican will take responsibility for supporting the families, though the Catholic Sant'Egidio community will take care of getting them settled initially.
When Francis' plane arrived, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met him on the tarmac, along with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians and the archbishop of Athens, who is the head of the Church of Greece. Later, many refugees fell to their knees and wept as Francis approached them at the Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesbos. Others chanted "Freedom! Freedom!" as he passed by. Francis bent down as one young girl knelt at his feet sobbing uncontrollably. A woman told the pope that her husband was in Germany, but that she was stuck with her two sons in Lesbos. "Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such," Francis tweeted.