Pope returns home after trip focused on helping migrants
Pope Francis ended his visit to Greece on Monday by encouraging his young people to pursue their dreams and not to be tempted by today’s consumerist “sirens” who promise easy pleasures.
Francois struggled briefly to keep his balance on the steps when boarding the plane to Rome when he was surprised by a gust of wind and was helped aboard by an assistant.
Earlier, Francis met students from a Catholic school in Athens on his final event of a five-day visit to Cyprus and Greece which was dominated by his concern for the plight of migrants seeking to enter Europe.
He echoed a common theme he raised with young people, encouraging them to stay true to their faith, even in the midst of doubts, and to resist the temptation to pursue materialistic goals. He quoted Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” and the temptation posed by the sirens who “with their songs enchanted sailors and made them crash against the rocks”.
“The sirens of today want to charm you with seductive and insistent messages that emphasize easy gains, the false needs of consumerism, the cult of physical well-being, entertainment at all costs”, a- he declared. “It all looks like fireworks: they ignite for a moment, then turn to smoke in the air. ”
Two immigrant students were among those who welcomed the Pope, including an 18-year-old Syrian refugee, Aboud Gabro, who told the Pope about his family’s flight from Aleppo in 2014 after a bomb exploded on their home . They finally arrived in Greece after a perilous boat trip from Turkey.
“It was difficult to be on a rock without food and water, to wait for dawn and for a Coast Guard ship to come and rescue us,” Gabro said.
Francis listened to his story, “a true odyssey of modern times”, and expressed his gratitude that he and his family did it safely after “so many refusals and a thousand difficulties, you have landed in this country”. But he suggested it also showed a sense of adventure and of people following their dreams.
“The meaning of life is not found by standing on the beach waiting for the wind to bring in something new. Salvation lies in the high seas, in the departure, in the quest, in the pursuit of dreams, real dreams, those which we pursue with open eyes, those which involve efforts, struggles, headwinds, sudden storms “, did he declare. “So don’t be paralyzed by fear: dream big! And dream together!
Francis returns to the Vatican with some important pre-Christmas events on his agenda: a scheduled meeting with members of a French commission that has investigated sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church, a scheduled meeting with Indigenous peoples in Canada seeking papal apologies for the abuse at Catholic boarding schools and Francis’ 85th birthday on December 17th.