Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met today with the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who is visiting Greece.
The Prime Minister and the Pope discussed issues of common interest. Mr Mitsotakis thanked the head of the Roman Cathlic Church for his visit in a year of high symbolic significance, as it marks the 200th anniversary since the start of the Hellenic Revolution, while also expressing his appreciation for the interest that the Pope demonstrates in major global issues.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis met earlier with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Vatican.
At the start of their meeting, they had the following exchange:
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We have very strong memories about the visit of His Holiness back in 2016, when he came during the refugee crisis. I am sure that tomorrow when he will go to Lesvos, he will see a much improved situation.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: Yes, somebody told me that the situation has completely changed.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It has completely changed. We have put in a lot of effort. First of all, we have created decent facilities for the people who end up on our islands. Because, as you are well aware, the previous camp in Moria, there was a horrible situation. So now His Holiness will visit what is still a temporary facility but it is clean, it is decent. And it offers people who have gone through horrible difficulties the opportunity to apply for asylum in conditions that are acceptable. Of course, the intention is to build permanent facilities on all our islands and to cooperate with the European Union to make sure that this actually happens. Of course Greece is a country that has welcomed many refugees in the past and we will continue to do so. At the same time, we need to work with Turkey to make sure that we further reduce the flows and go after the smugglers, who essentially instrumentalize the pain of desperate people. What we want to do is to also make sure that we open legal pathways for migration. For example, we welcomed more than 700 Afghani women and their families to Greece. We have been extremely generous in making sure that we offer them international protection.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: They came from Kabul?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: They came from Kaboul through other countries.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: Because I know that now it is very difficult to come out from Kabul, no?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It was a complicated operation. We have cooperated with reputable international, non-governmental organizations. And I had the chance to meet some of these women and their families. It is truly desperate what is happening in Afghanistan after all the progress that was made in terms of women’s rights. But we felt we had the moral obligation to help them and their families.
The meeting of the Prime Minister with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, was also attended, on the Greek side, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias, the Director of the Diplomatic Bureau of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Eleni Sourani and the Ambassador of Greece to the Holy See, Panagiotis Kalogeropoulos.
As regards the Holy See, the meeting was also attended by the Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, Substitute for the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher and Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to Greece.