Pope moved by meeting with Syrian refugees

Francis said that he became “emotional” at the Vatican, as he was leaving for the airport on Saturday.

FILE: Francis said that he became “emotional” at the Vatican, as he was leaving for the airport on Saturday. Picture: AFP.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE - Pope Francis on Saturday described how he became emotional when he met a family of Syrian refugees who have been given shelter in the Vatican.

"There are wars, refugees who are escaping in this wave of migration away from wars," he told reporters aboard the plane taking him from Rome to Havana to start his nine-day trip to Cuba and the United States.

"They are fleeing from death and seeking life," he said.

Francis said that he became "emotional" at the Vatican, as he was leaving for the airport on Saturday morning, when he was greeted by a Syrian family that one of the parishes inside the tiny city-state is hosting.

"You could see the pain in their faces," he said.

Earlier this month, Francis appealed to every parish and religious community in Europe to take in a family of refugees.

To set an example, the pontiff asked the two parishes inside the Vatican, a sovereign city-state surrounded by Rome, to take in a family.

"I think that today the world is thirsting for peace," he said.

An emergency meeting of European Union ministers this week failed to agree on a plan to share out some 160,000 newly arrived refugees, a measure aimed at relieving pressure on the region's border countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

CANADA GOVT PLEDGES TO SPEED UP RESETTLEMENT

Canada's Conservative government pledged on Saturday to speed up the processing of refugee applications from Syrians and Iraqis, an issue on which it has been criticised by political opponents as it heads into an 19 October election.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Canada would designate Syrians who have fled the conflict there as "prima facie" refugees, rather than waiting for a United Nations agency to formally process them.

Canada will also deploy more immigration officials to handle applications, take steps to facilitate private sponsorship and work to ensure the vast majority of applications from Syrians and Iraqis are processed within six months, he said.

"These measures will ensure that thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees will have reached Canada by the end of 2015," Alexander told reporters in Toronto.

"Our existing commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrians will be complete a full 15 months earlier than originally anticipated."

Canada's Conservative government came under fire earlier this month after it emerged that the British Columbia-based aunt of a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach had hoped to help the family emigrate to Canada.

The center-left opposition Liberals and New Democrats have railed against Canada's slow refugee process and pledged to do more to accept additional refugees from the war in Syria if they win power next month.