ROME -- After less than 48 hours in Rome, "dream" is the word used most often by the six Syrian adults Pope Francis brought back to Italy with him from a refugee camp in Greece.
By April 18, the couples -- who asked to be identified by only their first names, Hasan and Nour, Ramy and Suhila, Osama and Wafa -- and their six children had spent more than three hours doing paperwork with Italian immigration officials and had enrolled in Italian language classes.
MYTILENE, Greece -- Although their speeches were punctuated with policy appeals, Pope Francis and Orthodox leaders focused their visit to the island of Lesbos on the faces, stories and drawings of refugees.
Pope Francis, Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece spent more time April 16 greeting the refugees individually than they did giving speeches.
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM GREECE -- When an aide suggested Pope Francis offer to fly some Syrian refugees back to Rome with him, the pope said he agreed immediately because it was "an inspiration of the Holy Spirit."
In the end, he said, 12 Syrians -- members of three families, including six children -- had all the necessary papers from the Greek and Italian governments in time to fly with the pope April 16.
The fact that the 12 are all Muslims did not enter into the equation, the pope said. "I gave priority to children of God."
MYTILENE, Greece -- Pope Francis' five-hour visit to Greece ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18.
The Vatican had kept secret the pope's plan to invite the members of three Syrian families to fly back to Rome with him April 16. Rumors began swirling in the Greek media a couple hours before the flight took off, but it was confirmed by the Vatican only as the 12 were boarding the papal plane.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis' trip to Lesbos, Greece, April 16 comes at a frightening and critical time for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants waiting and wondering where they will end up, said members of Catholic aid agencies.
Maristella Tsamatropoulou, spokeswoman for Caritas Hellas, the Catholic charity in Greece, said when rumors started swirling that Pope Francis would join Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on a visit to refugees, "we believed it immediately because our pope is spontaneous; he's a force of nature."
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on love and the family invites the Church to see the daily struggles of families as an opportunity to encounter people the way Jesus encountered people with mercy throughout his life, Catholic observers said.
Because of its length — 256 pages — and the depth to which the pope explores love, marriage and Church teaching on the family, the document deserves to be unpacked with patience and careful discernment for mercy to take root in the Church's response to real human needs, Catholic leaders said.