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Pope Francis welcomes thousands of migrants to St Peter’s Square

A man waves a flag of Eritrea in front of the Apostolic Palace (AP)

Pope Francis welcomed several thousand migrants and refugees to the Vatican on Sunday to mark the World Day for Migrants and Refugees.

The Pontiff told the migrants, who were among the crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, not to give up hope.

“Dear migrants and refugees, each of you carries a story, a culture, precious values; and unfortunately often experiences of poverty, oppression and fear,” the Pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

“Your presence in this square – he continued – is a sign of hope in God.”

He added that they must not allow difficulties “to deprive them of this hope and of the joy of life that derive from experiencing divine mercy, thanks also to those who welcome you and help you”.

The migrants and refugees also attended Mass in St Peter’s Basilica and passed through the Holy Door. During his address, Pope Francis thanked the inmates of a detention centre in Milan who made the hosts for the Mass.

Pope Francis also prayed for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Jakarta, in Indonesia, and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso.

“May the Lord welcome them into His house, and support the commitment of the international community to build peace” he said.