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Pope Francis invites refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s

Pope Francis walks with a group of refugees he invited to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 22, 2016. A dozen men ascended the steps with Francis and sat in front of him on the ground as he delivered his weekly catechism lesson.
AP Photo: Fabio Frustaci

During his weekly public audience, Pope Francis invited a dozen male refugees to join him on the steps of St. Peter’s to underline his lesson on openness to those in need.

Inviting the group of refugees to join him, Francis implored the audience, and the wider world, “Please they are our brothers. A Christian excludes no one. I ask all of you: Let everyone come.”

The group of 12 refugee men are being cared for by a Vatican charity. They carried with them banners of the charity and Vatican flags.

In welcoming the group of refugees, the pope emphasized how much they had suffered in their home countries. Francis drew a comparison to the story of Jesus reaching out to a leper in the Gospel of Luke, according to Vatican radio. “The Lord’s example teaches us not to be afraid to reach out and touch the poor and the needy in our midst.”

The world has a record number of refugees. Europe particularly is seeing a wave of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.

Pope Francis has regularly used his pulpit to urge European nations to welcome more refugees.

The head of the Catholic church has been a strong advocate for Europe and the wider world sheltering and supporting refugees. On a trip to Greece in April the pontiff brought a group of refugees back with him to the Vatican.  Recently, the Vatican brought a second group to Rome.