This image was removed due to legal reasons.

The Vatican said Saturday that Pope Francis was returning to Rome from a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos—which has been at the center of the European refugee crisis—with 12 Muslim refugees who would be looked after by the Catholic Church.

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The move came just as Europe has dramatically tightened the restrictions on the flow of refugees. In early April, the European Union and Turkey began enforcing a deal which allowed refugees arriving on Greek islands to be deported to Turkey. For every refugee sent to Turkey, Turkey is then allowed to send a Syrian refugee living within its borders to Europe.

From the Associated Press:

The Vatican said the three families, including six children, would be supported by the Holy See and cared for by Italy's Catholic Sant'Egidio Community. Sant'Egidio has worked out a program with the Italian government to grant deserving refugees humanitarian visas to live in Italy while their asylum applications are being processed.

The Vatican said Francis wanted to make a "gesture of welcome" at the end of his five-hour visit to Lesbos, where he implored Europe to respond to the migrant crisis on its shores "in a way that is worthy of our common humanity."

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Reporters from around the world, including the Vatican's official newspaper, watched the families board the official papal plane.

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Francis also addressed his visit to Lesbos—where he met with throngs of people at a refugee camp and delivered a formal address about the humanitarian issues surrounding the crisis—on his many social media platforms.

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Here are more images of the Pope's visit to Lesbos.

This image was removed due to legal reasons.
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This image was removed due to legal reasons.
This image was removed due to legal reasons.

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