Pope Francis Speaks of Christian 'Martyr' Killed in Syria for Not Renouncing Faith

Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp in the Greek island of Lesbos, April 16, 2016.
Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome following a visit at the Moria refugee camp in the Greek island of Lesbos, April 16, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Filippo Monteforte/Pool)

Pope Francis, who returned from Greece with 12 Syrian Muslim refugees, on Sunday spoke of a Syrian Christian "martyr" who was murdered by terrorists for refusing to renounce her faith, in a speech in St Peter's Square.

"He is Muslim, and he told me that he married a Christian girl," the Pope said, of one of the more than 300 Syrian refugees he met on the Aegean island of Lesbos in Greece on Saturday, according to Sky News. "They loved each other and respected each other."

The pope continued, "But unfortunately the young woman's throat was slashed by terrorists because she didn't want to deny Christ and abandon her faith."

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Francis brought to Italy three Syrian Muslim families whose homes had been bombed in the Syrian war. They will all be looked after by the Vatican.

"We saw friends and relatives die in the rubble, we fled Syria because we no longer had any hope," Sigma Live quoted Hasan, an engineer from Damascus, who arrived in Italy with his wife, Nour, and two-year-old son, as saying.

When interviewed by reporters on his flight from Greece, the pope called all refugees "children of God."

He said bringing 12 refugees to Rome was a "humanitarian gesture... (but) a drop in the ocean," according to AFP. "Everything has been done according to the rules, with the agreement of the Greek and Italian governments. They have their papers, and everything is in order."

The pope also said all the refugees brought to Rome are Muslims because the papers of two Christian families that had originally been on the list were not in order.

"I didn't make the selection. These three families had papers which were in order and it was feasible. There were two Christian families but their paperwork wasn't ready. [Religion] was not grounds for exemption. All refugees are children of God."

Francis on Saturday urged Europe to fulfill its claim of being "the homeland of human rights."

"Whoever sets foot on European soil ought to sense this, and thus become more aware of the duty to respect and defend those rights," the pontiff said.

As hundred of thousands of people from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere are fleeing violence, persecution, civil wars and poverty, and searching for asylum, the European Union has responded by detaining several of them and deporting some back to their countries of origin.

"We have come to call the attention of the world to this grave humanitarian crisis and to plead for its resolution," Francis said during his visit to Greece, where leaders of Eastern Orthodox Christian churches joined him, according to The New York Times. "As people of faith, we wish to join our voices to speak out on your behalf," the pope added. "We hope that the world will heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity."

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