Europe

Pope Francis urges youth to accept migrants on visit to Poland

Pope Francis waves to crowds in Poland from the popemobile Image copyright AFP
Image caption It is the Pope's first visit to eastern Europe

Pope Francis has urged hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in Poland to show compassion for migrants.

He told young people gathered in Krakow "a merciful heart opens up to welcome refugees and migrants", a statement that puts him at odds with Poland's anti-immigrant right-wing government.

It is Pope Francis's first visit to eastern Europe, with Poland the home of the late Pope John Paul II.

On Friday he is visiting the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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Media captionPope Francis visited Czestochowa to mark the Baptism of Poland

He is due to meet camp survivors and will walk in silence around the site as a mark of respect for the more than one million people, mostly Jews, who died there.

Thursday saw Pope Francis celebrate mass at Poland's holiest Catholic shrine, the Jasna Gora monastery.

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Image caption Jasna Gora is an important pilgrimage site for Polish Catholics
Image copyright EPA
Image caption It is home to the Black Madonna, an image darkened by centuries of varnish and soot
Image copyright AFP
Image caption A big crowd heard the Pope celebrate Mass

There he saw the icon known as Black Madonna, a relic that has been venerated for six centuries.

Later, Church organisers said about 500,000 young people had joined the Pope for an evening rally, where he heard music from around the world.

He urged young Catholics to show compassion, saying a "merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; a merciful heart is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate."

Poland refused to take part in an EU deal to take in refugees. Ahead of the visit, the Vatican appeared to tone down criticism of Polish politicians' views of migrants.

Pope Francis is in Poland to celebrate 1050 years since the country adopted Christianity.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A special tram transported the Pope to the evening ceremony
Image copyright EPA
Image caption An estimated 500,000 people turned out to hear the Pope speak
Image copyright AFP
Image caption He called for compassion for migrants and refugees

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