Vatican City, Aug 11, 2016 / 09:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis invited 21 Syrian refugees to join him for lunch at his residence in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, exchanging gifts, toys and drawings with the children. The Syrian families were those brought by Pope Francis after his day-trip to Lesbos, Greece in April. Pope Francis brought the first group back to Rome with him on his flight April 16, and the second group arrived to Rome in mid-June.
During the meal, “both adults and children had an opportunity to speak with Pope Francis about the beginning of their lives in Italy,” an Aug. 11 communique from the Vatican read. The Pope presented the children with toys and gifts and the children gathered around the Pope to give him a collection of their drawings.
The first group of refugees, accompanied to Rome by Pope Francis in April, was made up of three Muslim families and numbered 12 people in total, including six children. Two of the families are from Damascus, and one is from Deir Azzor, which is now territory occupied by ISIS. Their homes had been bombed.
The second group, which arrived in Rome in June and included two Christians, was made up of six adults and three children.They are all Syrian citizens who had been living in the Kara Tepe camp on Lesbos after making the perilous boat ride from Turkey to the small Greek island.
All of these families are currently hosted by the Community of Sant’Egidio and were joined at lunch by the founder, Andrea Riccardi, and several other members of the community.
Pope Francis and his Syrian guests were also joined by the Substitute Secretary of State, Archbishop Angelo Becci√π and Dr. Domenico Giani, Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and two gendarmes who assisted with the transfer of the families from Lesbos to Italy, according to the communique.