Photographs issued by the Vatican showed the pope waving to the children, greeting them individually, and giving them his blessing.
“The pope invited them to play and he spent some time in the courtyard watching them and asking them to pray for him too,” reported Vatican News, which said that the event also included a kite-building workshop.
The welfare of migrants and refugees has been one of Pope Francis’ top priorities since his election in 2013. His first trip outside Rome as pope, in July of that year, was to Italy’s migrant island of Lampedusa.
Earlier this week, the pope met with recent arrivals from Afghanistan after a documentary about his life and teaching was screened at the Vatican.
Evgeny Afineevsky, the film’s director, told the online news site Deadline: “When the movie finished [the pope] was downstairs waiting for them. He wanted to meet everybody and greet everybody…”
“He is a human being who cherishes being close to the people, cherishes the moment he can spread love, joy in their lives — not easy lives. And he always remembers that he can be in their place [as a refugee]. He said it many, many times: ‘It can be you or me.’”
He added: “He’s somebody who is trying to bring light to their plight. He’s trying to bring the spotlight of the media towards them and to show to the world how important it is to help them, integrate them.”
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After his Sunday Angelus on Sept. 5, Pope Francis urged countries to offer refuge to people fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.
“In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” the pope said.
“May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”
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