Pope Francis Compares Refugee Camps to Nazi Concentration Camps

'Refugee camps are concentration camps,' says leader of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis leaves the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island after the Liturgy of the Word in memory of the "New Martyrs" of the 20th and 21th century, on April 22, 2017 in Rome.
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP

The detention centers where Europe-bound refugees are held are like Nazi concentration camps, Pope Francis said Saturday.

"Refugee camps are concentration camps" because they are so overcrowded, the pontiff said.

He spoke during a special religious service on Tiber Island in central Rome, commemorating modern-day Christian martyrs.

In an off-the-cuff addition to his homily, Francis recalled meeting a man and his three children during a visit last year to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

The man told the pope that he was a Muslim whose Christian wife was slain before his eyes by "terrorists" after she refused to throw off her crucifix. 

Francis did not mention the nationality of the man, and added: "I don't know if [he] was able to leave that concentration camp."

The pope led the service in St Bartholomew Basilica wearing a crimson stola that once belonged to Ragheed Aziz Ganni, a Chaldean priest killed in Mosul, Iraq, in 2007.

Francis called martyrs "the living blood of the Church."

Before his homily, friends and relatives of slain Christians - including the sister of Father Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old priest killed in France last year in an Islamist attack - spoke before a packed congregation.

The service was held in the run up to Francis' April 28-29 visit to Egypt, a country where Christians are under threat. Earlier this month, at least 45 people were killed following an attack on two Coptic Churches claimed by the Islamic State terror militia.