By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, Dec 17 (Reuters) – A group of migrants from refugee camps in Cyprus who are being resettled in Italy thanks to the mediation of Pope Francis celebrated the 85th birthday of the Supreme Pontiff on Friday.
“You saved us,” an African boy told the Holy Father during a meeting in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace a day after the 12 arrived from Cyprus.
They wished him happy birthday and gave him a painting made by an Afghan refugee that shows a group of migrants crossing the sea.
The group is made up of migrants from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Somalia and Syria. It includes people who worked as doctors and in the information technology sector in their countries of origin.
The Pope will facilitate the resettlement of 50 migrants in Italy as part of an agreement between that country, the Vatican and Cyprus to commemorate his trip earlier this month to the Mediterranean island.
Francisco, who was elected in 2013, has made the defense of migrants and refugees a cornerstone of his pontificate.
The Holy Father also visited Greece during the December 2-6 trip and made a stop at a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos.
During an earlier visit in 2016 to the then front line of Europe’s migration crisis, he left Lesbos taking 12 Syrian refugees with him. (Report by Philip Pullella. Edited in Spanish by Javier Leira)