VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was praying that many countries take Afghan refugees and, in an apparent reference to the Taliban’s past restrictions on schooling for women, said it is essential that young Afghans receive an education.
“In these moments of upheaval, in which Afghans are seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them,” he told hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing.
“I pray that many countries welcome them and protect those who are seeking a new life.”
The pope is a strong supporter of the rights of refugees and migrants.
Thousands of Afghans evacuated by the United States are waiting in so-called transit hubs in countries such as Qatar, Germany and Italy. Thousands of others are trying to leave via land crossings with neighbouring countries such as Pakistan.
“I also pray for the internally displaced so that they have help and necessary protection. May young Afghans receive an education, which is an essential good for human development,” Francis said.
The last time the Islamist militants were in power in Afghanistan, women were not allowed to work and girls could not go to school.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Goodman)